Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cremation ( St. Nikolai Velimirovich )

By St. Nikolai Velimirovich (Written in 1956)

You ask me, why is the Orthodox Church against cremation. First of all, because it considers it violent. The Serbs still shudder with the crime of Sinan Pasha, who burned the dead body of St. Sava in Vratsa.

Do people burn dead horses, dogs, cats and monkeys? I have not heard of this. I have heard of and seen them buried. Why should the dead bodies of people who are the lords of all animals on earth endure violence? Would it not be in all respects much more reasonable to incinerate dead animals, especially in big cities, than people?

Second, because this pagan and barbaric habit disappeared from Europe thanks to Christian civilization two thousand years ago. Anyone who wants to reinstate it doesn't do anything else, neither civilized nor modern nor new, but something ancient which has long expired.

In England, which one can hardly call uncivilized, this form of Neopaganism is very much hated by the people. To tell you a case: during the years of World War II a famous Yugoslav lost his mind. When asked before he died, he said his only desire was to have his body burned.

In our day, our little Yugoslavian community was reduced in the incinerator of Golders Green. When the dead bodies entered the burning furnace we began to tremble with horror. Then they shouted to us on the opposite side of the furnace, "wait a quarter of an hour to see your compatriot in the form of ashes". We waited over an hour and were mystified why the fire struggled with the dead body, and we asked the stoker about this. He apologized saying the furnace was cold, "it is not heated every day, since rarely do volunteers get handed over to the fire". Listening to this we were dissolved, unable to wait at the edge for our compatriot. And we know that in London over a thousand human beings die every day.

I am in America, I saw the graves of the great Presidents Wilson, Roosevelt, Lincoln and many other important persons. None of them are cremated. Now this surprised me, that among the descendants of Saint Sava there could be found those who are like-minded with Sinan Pasha!

But why create an issue that has already been solved? If we want to be loaded with unnecessary worries, then someday we could be troubled by the question on whether to kill our decrepit men and women as do some primitive tribes? And we will create clubs to propagate this "idea"!

Finally, what sense is there in fighting the cemeteries, particularly in this country where the cemetery serves as a national pride, as a source of inspiration, and if you will as the book of the state?

Peace to you and health from God.

St. Nikolai Velimirovich

Sts Cyril and Methodius on The Great treasure that is Orthodoxy

Sts Cyril and Methodius

We must invite our friends and neighbors to “taste and see” the great treasure that is Orthodoxy, for it is our responsibility, as Christians, to reach out in kindness, and with a welcoming smile, when we see strangers enter our temples.

Two Byzantine brothers, Saints Cyril and Methodius, brought Orthodox Christianity to the Slavs in the ninth century. The brilliance of Eastern Orthodox missionary outreach, as opposed to that of the Latin Church, was in the very use of the vernacular. These great saints who became known as the Apostles to the Slavs, left the Slavs with a liturgical language that was understandable to them. The services were not imparted in the Greek language, as though it alone was sacred enough to be used in Divine Worship, but helped them understand their new faith by worshiping in their own language.

Ακάθαρτος άνθρωπος ( Αγιος Γρηγόριος ο Παλαμάς )

Μου είπε κάποτε προ ετών ο σεβαστός γέρων Γεράσιμος ο Υμνογράφος.

Ο άγιος Γρηγόριος ο Παλαμάς λέει ότι το μόνο το οποίο αδυνατεί να πράξει ο Παντοδύναμος Θεός είναι το να ενωθεί με τον ακάθαρτο άνθρωπο.

Σε αυτό αδυνατεί.

Αγιος Γρηγόριος ο Παλαμάς

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Dealing with Depression ( St. Porphyrios )

Almost all illnesses are caused by our lack of trust in the Lord. This creates stress. Stress is caused by the negation of the religious sentiment. Unless you love the Lord and preoccupy yourself with holy deeds, you will certainly have depression and nasty feelings.

There is one thing which helps someone who is depressed: work and showing an interest in living: For example having a garden, some plants, flowers, trees, or getting outside, going for a walk in the countryside, or for a simple walk. All these create an interest and stop a person’s apathy. They act like medicine.

Moreover, being interested in music or the arts is very beneficial. But I specially emphasize the need to show an interest for the Church, for the Gospel and the liturgical services. Just by studying the Lord’s word one is healed without realizing it.

We ought not to be discouraged or be in a hurry. We ought not to judge things superficially or by their external appearance. If for example you happen to see a naked woman or one who is dressed inappropriately, do not criticize her but try to enter her soul. She may have a good heart and may express her existential worries through her wild appearance. She may process an inner strength and wish to show off arousing interest. She may have a distorted view of things because of her ignorance. Imagine what will happen if she does actually come to know Christ. She will become a believer and will direct all this passion towards Christ. She will do anything to attract divine grace. She will become a saint.

Because of our anxiety and our fears we often cause harm to someone without meaning to and without realizing it, even if we love him very much, like a mother does her child. A mother may transfer to the child all her anxiety about his life, his health and progress, even though she does not express it with words. This kind of love, this natural love, may sometimes cause harm. However, this does not happen with the love of Christ which is coupled with prayer and a careful way of life. This love sanctifies and calms a person, since God is love.

Translation of excerpts from the book «ΓΕΡΟΝΤΟΣ ΠΟΡΦΥΡΙΟΥ ΙΕΡΟΜΟΝΑΧΟΥ Ανθολόγιο Συμβουλών»

ΤΟ ΣΥΜΒΟΛΟ ΤΗΣ ΠΙΣΤΕΩΣ ( Το "ΠΙΣΤΕΥΩ" στα Ελληνικά και σε 14 ακόμα γλώσσες / The Creed in 14 Languages )



1. Πιστεύω εἰς ἕνα Θεόν, Πατέρα, Παντοκράτορα, ποιητὴν οὐρανοῦ καὶ γῆς, ὁρατῶν τε πάντων καὶ ἀοράτων.
2. Καὶ εἰς ἕνα Κύριον Ἰησοῦν Χριστόν, τὸν Υἱὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ τὸν μονογενῆ, τὸν ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς γεννηθέντα πρὸ πάντων τῶν αἰώνων· φῶς ἐκ φωτός, Θεὸν ἀληθινὸνἐκ Θεοῦ ἀληθινοῦ, γεννηθέντα οὐ ποιηθέντα, ὁμοούσιον τῷ Πατρί, δι' οὗ τὰ πάντα ἐγένετο.
3. Τὸν δι' ἡμᾶς τοὺς ἀνθρώπους καὶ διὰ τὴν ἡμετέραν σωτηρίαν κατελθόντα ἐκ τῶν οὐρανῶν καὶ σαρκωθέντα ἐκ Πνεύματος Ἁγίου καὶ Μαρίας τῆς Παρθένου καὶ ἐνανθρωπήσαντα.
4. Σταυρωθέντα τε ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἐπὶ Ποντίου Πιλάτου, καὶ παθόντα καὶ ταφέντα.
5. Καὶ ἀναστάντα τῇ τρίτῃ ἡμέρα κατὰ τὰς Γραφάς.
6. Καὶ ἀνελθόντα εἰς τοὺς οὐρανοὺς καὶ καθεζόμενον ἐκ δεξιῶν τοῦ Πατρός.
7. Καὶ πάλιν ἐρχόμενον μετὰ δόξης κρῖναι ζῶντας καὶ νεκρούς, οὗ τῆς βασιλείας οὐκ ἔσται τέλος.
8. Καὶ εἰς τὸ Πνεῦμα τὸ Ἅγιον, τὸ κύριον, τὸ ζωοποιόν, τὸ ἐκ τοῦ Πατρὸς ἐκπορευόμενον, τὸ σὺν Πατρὶ καὶ Υἱῷ συμπροσκυ-νούμενον καὶ συνδοξαζόμενον, τὸ λαλῆσαν διὰ τῶν προφητῶν.
9. Εἰς μίαν, Ἁγίαν, Καθολικὴν καὶ Ἀποστολικὴν Ἐκκλησίαν.
10. Ὁμολογῶ ἓν βάπτισμα εἰς ἄφεσιν ἁμαρτιῶν.
11. Προσδοκῶ ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν.
12. Καὶ ζωὴν τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰῶνος.

THE CREED (Αγγλικά)

1.I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. 2.And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages. Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father, through whom all things were made.
3.For us and for our salvation, He came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.
4.He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and He suffered and was buried.
5.On the third day He rose according to the Scriptures. 6.He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
7.He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will have no end.
8.And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father, who together with the Father and the Son is worshiped and glorified, who spoke through the prophets.
9.!n one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.
10. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
11. I expect the resurrection of the dead.
12.And the life of the age to come.


1.Je crois en un seul Dieu. Père tout-puissant, Créateur du ciel et de la terre, de toutes les choses visibles et invisibles. 2.Et en un seul Seigneur Jésus-Christ, Fils unique de Dieu, engendré du Père avant tous les siècles. Lumière de lumière, vrai Dieu de vrai Dieu, engendré, non créé, consubstantiel au Père, et par qui tout a été fait.
3.Qui, pour nous, hommes, et pour notre salut est descendu des cieux et a pris chair du Saint-Esprit et de la Vierge Marie, et s'est fait homme.
4.Qui a été crucifié pour nous, sous Ponce Pilate, a souffert et a été enseveli.
5.Qui est ressuscité le troisième jour, selon les Écritures. 6.Qui est monté aux cieux et est assis à la droite du Père. 7.Et qui reviendra avec gloire, juger les vivants et les morts et dont le règne n'aura pas de fin.
8.Et en l'Esprit Saint, Seigneur, donateur de vie, qui procède du Père, qui est adoré et glorifié avec le Père et le Fils et qui a parlé par les Prophètes
9.En l'Église une, sainte, catholique et apostolique.
10.Je confesse un seul baptême pour la rémission des péchés.
11.J'attends la résurrection des morts.
12.Et la vie du siècle à venir.


1.Credo in un solo Dio, Padre onnipotente, creatore del cielo e della terra, di tutte le cose visibili ed invisibili.
2.Credo in un solo Signore, Gesù Cristo, unigenito Figlio di Dio, nato dal Padre prima di tutti i secoli: Luce da Luce, Dio vero da Dio vero, generato, non creato, della stessa sostanza del Padre; per mezzo di lui tutte le cose sono state create.
3.Per noi uomini e per la nostra salvezza discese dal cielo
e per opera dello Spirito Santo si è incarnato nel seno della Vergine Maria e si è fatto uomo.
4.Fu crocifisso per noi sotto Ponzio Pilato, morì e fu sepolto.
5.Il terzo giorno è risuscitato, secondo le Scritture,
6.è salito al cielo, siede alla destra del Padre.
7.E di nuovo verrà, nella gloria, per giudicare i vivi e i morti, e il suo regno non avrà fine.
8.Credo nello Spirito Santo, che è Signore e dà la vita,
e procede dal Padre, e con il Padre e il Figlio è
dorato e glorificato, e ha parlato per mezzo dei profeti.
9.Credo la Chiesa una, santa, cattolica e apostolica.
10.Professo un solo battesimo per il perdono dei peccati.
11.Aspetto la risurrezione dei morti
12.e la vita del mondo che verrà.


1.Ich glaube an den einen Gott, den Vater, den Allherrscher, Schöpfer des Himmels und der Erde, alles Sichtbaren und Unsichtbaren.
2.Und an den einen Herrn Jesus Christus, den Sohn Gottes, den Einziggeborenen, den aus dem Vater Gezeugten vor allen Äonen, Licht vom Lichte, wahrer Gott vom wahren Gott, gezeugt, nicht geschaffen, eines Wesens mit dem Vater, durch den alles erschaffen ist.
3.Der für uns Menschen und um unseres Heiles willen von den Himmeln hernieder gestiegen ist und Fleisch angenommen hat aus dem Heiligen Geiste und Maria der Jungfrau und Mensch geworden ist.
4.Der sogar für uns gekreuzigt worden ist unter Pontius Pilatus, gelitten hat und begraben worden ist.
5.Und auferstanden ist am dritten Tage gemäß den Schriften.
6.Und aufgefahren ist in die Himmel und sitzet zur Rechten des Vaters.
7.Und wiederkommen wird in Herrlichkeit, zu richten die Lebendigen und die Toten; dessen Reiches kein Ende sein wird.
8.Und an den Heiligen Geist, den Herrn, den Lebensschaffenden, der vom Vater ausgeht, der mit dem Vater und dem Sohn angebetet und verherrlicht wird, der gesprochen hat durch die Propheten.
9.An die eine, heilige, katholische und apostolische Kirche. 10.Ich bekenne die eine Taufe zur Vergebung der Sünden.
11.Ich harre der Auferstehung der Toten.
12.Und des Lebens des kommenden Äons.

CREIO (Πορτογαλικά)

1.CREIO EM UM SΣ DEUS,Pai Todo-Poderoso, Criador do Cιu e da terra, de todas as coisas visνveis e invisνveis. 2.Creio em um sσ Senhor, Jesus Cristo, Filho Ϊnico de Deus, nascido do Pai antes de todos os sιculos:
Luz da Luz, Deus verdadeiro de Deus verdadeiro;gerado, nγo criado, consubstancial ao Pai, por quem todas as coisas foram feitas.
3.E por nσs, homens, e para nossa salvaηγo desceu dos Cιus. E encarnou pelo Espνrito Santo, no seio de Maria Virgem e Se fez Homem.
4.Tambem por nσs foi crucificado sob Pτncio Pilatos; padeceu e foi sepultado.
5.Ressuscitou ao terceiro dia, conforme as Escrituras;
6.e subiu aos Cιus,onde estα sentado ΰ direita de Deus Pai.
7. De novo hα-de vir cheio de glσria, para julgar os vivos e os mortos; e o Seu Reino nγo terα fim.
8.Creio no Espνrito Santo, Senhor e Fonte de Vida que procede do Pai e com o Pai e o Filho recebe a mesma adoraηγo e a mesma glσria, Foi Ele que falou pelos Profetas.
9.Creio na Igreja Una, Santa, Catσlica e Apostσlica.
10.Reconheηo um sσ Bαptismo para a remissγo dos pecados. 11.Eespero a ressurreiηγo dos mortos
12.e a vida do mundo que hα-de vir.

CREO (Ισπανικά)

1.Creo en un solo Dios, Padre todopoderoso, Creador del cielo y de la tierra, de todo lo visible y lo invisible.
2.Creo en un solo Señor, Jesucristo, Hijo único de Dios,
nacido del Padre antes de todos los siglos: Luz de Luz,
Dios verdadero de Dios verdadero, engendrado, no creado, de la misma naturaleza del Padre; por quien todas las cosas fueron hechas;
3. que por nosotros los hombres, y por nuestra salvación
descendió del cielo, y por obra del Espíritu Santo se encarnó de María, la Virgen, y se hizo hombre;
4.y por nuestra causa fue crucificado en tiempos de Poncio Pilato, padeció y fue sepultado,
5.y resucitó al tercer día, según las Escrituras,
6.y subió al cielo, y está sentado a la derecha del Padre;
7.y de nuevo vendrá con gloria, para juzgar a vivos y muertos, y su reino no tendrá fin.
8.Creo en el Espíritu Santo, Señor y dador de vida,
que procede del Padre, que con el Padre y el Hijo recibe una misma adoración y gloria, y que habló por los profetas.
9.Creo en la Iglesia que es Una, Santa, Católica y Apostólica.
10.Reconozco que hay un solo bautismo para el perdón de los pecados,
11.espero la resurrección de la carne
12.y la vida del mundo futuro.

CREDO (Λατινικά)

Credo in unum Deum, Patrem omnipotentem, factorem caeli et terrae, visibilium omnium et invisibilium.
2.Et in unum Dominum Iesum Christum, Filium Dei unigenitum, et ex Patre natum ante omnia saecula. Lumen de lumine, Deum verum de Deo vero, genitum, non factum, consubstantialem Patri, per quem omnia facta sunt.
3.Qui propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit de caelis et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est.
4.Crucifixus etiam pro nobis sub Pontio Pilato; passus et sepultus est resurrexit tertia die secundum Scripturas, ascendit in caelum, sedet ad dexteram Patris.
7.Et iterum venturus est cum gloria iudicare vivos et mortuos, cuius regni non erit finis.
8.Et in Spiritum Sanctum, Dominum et vivificantem: qui ex Patre procedit. Qui cum Patre et Filio simul adoratur et conglorificatur: qui locutus est per prophetas.
9.Et unam, sanctam, catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam.
10.Confiteor unum baptisma in remissionem peccatorum.
11.Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum vitam venturi saeculi.

SERBIAN (Σερβικά)

Верујем у једнога Бога Оца, Сведржитеља, Творца неба и земље и свега видљивог и невидљивог.
И у једнога Господа Исуса Христа, Сина Божијег, Јединородног, од Оца рођеног пре свих векова; Светлост од Светлости, Бога истинитог од Бога истинитог; рођеног, а не створеног, једносуштног Оцу, кроз Кога је све постало; Који је ради нас људи и ради нашег спасења сишао с небеса, и оваплотио се од Духа Светога и Марије Дјеве, и постао човек; и Који је распет за нас у време Понтија Пилата, и страдао и погребен; и Који је васкрсао у трећи дан, по Писму; И Који се вазнео на небеса и седи са десне стране Оца; И Који ће опет доћи са славом, да суди живима и мртвима, Његовом царству неће бити краја.
И у Духа Светога, Господа, Животворног, Који од Оца исходи, Који се са Оцем и Сином заједно поштује и заједно слави, Који је говорио кроз пророке.
У једну, свету, саборну и апостолску Цркву. Исповедам једно крштење за опроштење грехова. Чекам васкрсење мртвих. И живот будућег века.

ALBANIAN (Αλβανικά)

Besoj në një Perëndi, Atë të tërëfuqishëm, krijues të qiellit e të dheut dhe të gjithë të dukarave dhe të padukurave.
Dhe në një Zot, Jisu Krishtin, Birin e Perëndisë, të vetemlindurin, që lindi prej Atit përpara gjithë shekujve. Dritë prej Drite, Perëndi të vërtetë prej Perëndie të vërtetë, të lindur, jo të bërë, që ka të qënët një me Atin, me anën e të cilit u bënë të gjitha. Që për ne njerëzit dhe për shpëtimin tonë zbriti prej qiejve dhe u trupëzua prej Shpirtit të Shejtë dhe Virgjëreshës Mari dhe u bë njeri. Dhe u kryqëzua për ne në kohën e Pontit Pilat dhe pësoi e u varros. Dhe u ngjall të tretën ditë sipas Shkrimeve. Dhe u ngjit në qiejt dhe rri në të djathtën e Atit. Dhe do të vijë përsëri me lavdi të gjykojë të gjallët e të vdekurit, mbretëria e të cilit nuk do të ketë mbarim.
Dhe në Shpirtin e Shejtë, Zot jetëbërës, që buron prej Atit, që adhurohet e lavdërohet bashkë me Atin e me Birin, që foli me anën e Profetëve.
Në një Kishë të shejtë, katholike dhe apostolike. Pohoj një pagëzim për ndjesën e mëkateve. Pres ngjalljen e të vdekurve. Dhe jetën e ardhshme të amëshuar.

RUMANIAN (Ρουμανικά)

Cred întru Unul Dumnezeu, Tatăl atotţiitorul, Făcătorul cerului şi al pământului, al tuturor celor văzute şi nevăzute.
Şi întru Unul Domn Iisus Hristos, Fiul lui Dumnezeu, Unul-Născut, Care din Tatăl S-a născut mai înainte de toţi vecii: Lumină din Lumină, Dumnezeu adevărat din Dumnezeu adevărat, născut iar nu făcut, Cel de o fiinţă cu Tatăl, prin Care toate s-au făcut; Care, pentru noi oamenii şi pentru a noastră mântuire, S-a pogorât din ceruri şi S-a întrupat de la Duhul Sfânt şi din Fecioara Maria şi S-a făcut om; Şi S-a răstingit pentru noi în zilele lui Ponţiu Pilat şi a pătimit şi S-a îngropat; Şi a înviat a treia zi după Scripturi; Şi S-a înălţat la ceruri şi şade de-a dreapta Tatălui; Şi iarăşi va să vină cu slavă să judece viii şi morţii, a Carui împărăţie nu va avea sfârşit.
Şi întru Duhul Sfînt, Domnul de viaţă Făcătorul, Care din Tatăl purcede, Cela ce împreună cu Tatăl şi cu Fiul este închinat şi slăvit, Care a grăit prin prooroci.
Întru una, sfânta, sobornicească şi apostolească Biserică. Mărturisesc un botez spre iertarea păcatelor. Aştept învierea morţilor. Şi viaţa veacului ce va să vie.

RUSSIAN (Ρωσικά)

Верую во единого Бога, Отца всемогущего, Творца неба и земли, видимого всего и невидимого.
И во единого Господа Иисуса Христа, Сына Божия Единородного, от Отца рожденного прежде всех веков, Бога от Бога, Свет от Света, Бога истинного от Бога истинного, рожденного, несотворенного, единосущного Отцу, через Которого все сотворено. Ради нас, людей, и ради нашего спасения сошедшего с небес и воплотившегося от Духа Святого и Марии Девы, и ставшего Человеком; распятого за нас при Понтии Пилате, страдавшего и погребенного, воскресшего в третий день по Писаниям, восшедшего на небеса и сидящего одесную Отца, вновь грядущего со славою судить живых и мертвых, и Царству Его не будет конца.
И в Духа Святого, Господа животворящего, от Отца исходящего; Которому вместе с Отцом и Сыном подобает поклонение и слава; Который вещал через пророков.
И во единую Святую Вселенскую и Апостольскую Церковь. Исповедую единое крещение во отпущение грехов. Ожидаю воскресения мертвых и жизни будущего века. _

UKRANIAN (Ουκρανικά)

Вірую в єдиного Бога, Отця Вседержителя, Творця неба і землі, і всього видимого і невидимого.
І в єдиного Господа нашого Ісуса Христа, Сина Божого, Єдинородного, від Отця народженого перед усіма віками. Бога від Бога, Світло від Світла, Бога істинного від Бога істинного, родженого, несотвореного, єдиносущного з Отцем, що через Нього все було створене. Він задля нас людей і нашого ради спасіння зійшов із небес, і воплотився з Духа Святого і Марії Діви, і став чоловіком. І був розп'ятий за нас за Понтія Пилата, і страждав, і був похованій. І воскрес у третій день згідно з Писанням. І вознісся на небо, і сидить праворуч Отця. І вдруге прийде зі славою судити живих і мертвих, а Його царству не буде кінця.
І в Духа Святого, Господа животворящого, що від Отця ісходить, що з Отцем і Сином рівнопоклоняемий і рівнославимий, що говорив через пророків.
Вірую в єдину, святу, вселенську й апостольську Церкву. Ісповідую одне хрещення на відпущення гріхів. Очікую воскресіння мертвих і життя майбутнього віку.

CZECH (Τσεχικά)

Věřím v jednoho Boha, Otce všemohoucího, Stvořitele nebe i země, všech bytostí viditelných a neviditelných.
I v jednoho Pána Ježíše Krista, Syna Božího jednorozeného. A zrozeného z Otce před všemi věky. Boha z Boha, Světlo ze Světla, Boha pravého z Boha pravého. Zplozeného, nestvořeného, téže podstaty s Otcem, skrze něhož všecko učiněno jest. Jenž pro nás lidi a pro naši spásu sestoupil s nebes. A vtělil se duchem svatým z Marie Panny; a člověkem se stal. Ukřižován také za nás pod Pontským Pilátem, trpěl a pohřben byl. A vstal z mrtvých třetího dne podle Písem. A vstoupil do nebe; sedí na pravici Otcově. A zase přijde se slávou soudit živých i mrtvých, jehož království nebude konce.
I Ducha svatého, Pana a Oživovatele, jenž z Otce vychází. Jenž z Otcem i Synem zároveň jest uctíván a oslavován, jenž mluvil skrze proroky.
A jednu, svatou, obecnou a apoštolskou Církev. Vyznávám jeden křest na odpuštění hříchů. A očekávám vzkříšení mrtvých. A život příštího věku.

CHINESE 東正教信經 (Κινεζικά)

十一, 我望諸亡者之復活。
十二, 並來世之生命。

Monday, July 27, 2015

The Life Of Saint Irene Chrysovalantou

On July 28th we celebrate the memory of Saint Irene from Cappadocia whose earthly remains now lie in the monastery of Chrysovalantou, near Constantinople.

After the death of the apostate Theophilus, his wife Theodora occupied the throne of Byzantium. She freed the church from the iconoclasts, restored the Holy Icons and re-established a true spirit of holy Orthodoxy. This very blessed woman was to rule the empire until her son Michael came of age.

On Michael’s 12th name day messengers were dispatched by his mother, the empress, to find a suitably beautiful, virtuous and refined girl to be his wife. They found such a candidate in Irene, the daughter of an aristocratic family from the province of Cappadocia. She gladly accepted their proposal and the whole company proceeded to Byzantium greatly impressed by the presence of their future empress. Among the company was Irene’s sister who later married the Empress Theodora’s brother Vardas. While passing Mt. Olympos (near Asia Minor), Irene asked to visit Ioannikos, a saintly recluse of that mountain, to receive his blessing. As he was well known as one who only became visible to the most worthy pilgrims, her request had to be granted.

The hermit, through his gift of spiritual insight, not only foresaw the arrival of the company but also the young girl’s future merits, so as they approached he called out, “Welcome Irene, Servant of God. Proceed to the Imperial City in joy because the convent of Chrysovalantou needs you in the community.”

Irene was amazed at this prophetic power and fell to the ground imploring his blessing. Ioannikos lifted her up, gave her strength with spiritual thoughts and blessed her, so that she was able to continue her journey in great joy. On reaching Byzantium her relatives there, some poor, others patricians and senators, all came to meet her with great ceremony. However, the King of Kings Who created everything out of nothing and orders all things, had, only a few days before arranged for this earthly king to marry another girl so that He, the immortal, invisible, only-wise God could use Irene for His special purpose. Far from being upset, she gave thanks to Him Who had led the Emperor to take this course. Later many of the outstanding men of Byzantium, captivated by her grace and beauty, proposed marriage, but she refused all others, desiring only contemplation of the heavenly Bridegroom.

Remembering the hermit’s prophecy, she visited the great monastery of Chrysovalantou and was so impressed by the climate and the beautiful way of life led by the nuns that she freed her slaves, gave all inherited wealth (and her imperial dowry) to the poor and, rejecting any remnants of vanity and worldliness, entered the community. Dressed in a simple habit of sackcloth and gladly accepting the “easy yoke and light burden” of Christ our Lord (St. Matthew 11:30), the aristocratic young lady served the sisters with amazing humility and obedience. Never resorting to argument or thoughts of her past, she performed the most lowly and despised tasks with cheerful alacrity and an attentive consciousness. The very wise and virtuous abbess advised her that she was living our Lord’s words that “Without Me, you can do nothing. Anyone who remains in Me as I remain in him will bear much fruit.” (St. John 15:5.) So this young novice, like a fertile orchard, bore rich fruit in Christ, winning the admiration of all people through her obedience, humility and concern for all. Such was her enthusiasm that it was said by the community, who were united in love for her, that she had the spirit of a freed slave.

In her cell (the room of a nun or monk), she read the lives of the saints and from the great Arsenios she learned of the discipline of the night-long prayer. The abbess finally granted Irene’s request to attempt this arduous trial through a realization of her profound humility. Thus she embarked on this superhuman task before the end of the first year of her novitiate and was so blessed with divine grace that she was able to stand from morning to night with hands raised like the prophet Moses (on Mt. Sinai). She was so devoted to this exercise (to the abbess’ amazement) that she would even stand twenty-four hours without movement.

Three years of this practice caused the adversary great anguish (we speak of the evil-one) but his every effort failed to divert her, so greatly had she subdued all earthly thoughts. She was now totally free of worldly temptations through abstinence. For food she only took bread and water, occasionally supplemented by herbs or vegetables. For clothing she took a new habit every Easter –Holy Pasha-- and only cleaned it as a gift to the poor the following Great Lent. For her task in the house she chose to clean the toilets, never giving a thought to her noble past.

Thus the evil-one failed to sow spiritual tares in her soul because as soon as she recognized any sign of his activity, she confessed every wayward thought to her abbess and immediately recommenced her exercises. Then she had only to cross herself to render these satanic apparitions invisible. But on one occasion she was shaken with such powerful doubts that she fell to the ground shedding many tears of prayer to the Lord, His holy Mother and all the Saints, and particularly the Archangels to whom the monastery was dedicated. “O Blessed Trinity (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), everlasting God, at the intercession of Your most holy Mother and in the presence of the Archangels, their armies, the celestial powers and all Your Saints, help Your servant. Deliver me from the assaults of the devil.” She shed fervent tears for many nights in her prayers to God until under the shadow of His wings she found rest and shelter (Psalm 90:7).

So great was her renewed devotion that she became a chosen vessel of God. Blessed with the Holy Spirit in the manner of the holy Apostle Paul, living no more according to the flesh but so dwelling in Christ and Christ in her that she appeared transfigured to those many souls whom she led to the Lord. Public servants, senators, peasants and noble ladies alike experienced a renewal of faith and many unmarried women took vows and enriched the life of the convent.

At that time the abbess became very weak. Realizing that she would soon die, the community was filled with sorrow while the humble Irene shed many tears for her spiritual mother. One day when many of the nuns had gathered in her cell, noting that Irene was absent, the abbess offered them her last wishes. “Do not lament my departure for in my successor you have a leader who is wiser than I. Be obedient to her, this daughter of light, lamb of Christ and vessel of the Holy Spirit. Do not accept anyone but Irene.” Then with the words, “Glory to You, O Lord, in Your mercy,” she committed her soul to the care of the angels. To protect her humility, Irene wasn’t told of these disclosures. Meanwhile the community prayed that the Lord’s will would be done. Finally the Elders decided to go to the Patriarch and seek his advice.

At that time Methodios the Confessor was Patriarch. He was a leader of such courage that through the tortures of the Iconoclasts he bore on his body the stigmata of Our Lord. He was also blessed with the gift of foresight. After the community had paid their respects to this Holy Patriarch, he asked them to name whom they wished to be their superior. They could only reply that their one prayer was that he would be guided by the Holy Spirit. With no prior knowledge of the former abbess’ disclosure, the wise old Patriarch inquired as to whether there was one of their number of humble disposition called Irene. If so, he believed that she was the choice and that this choice was well pleasing in the sight of God. At his demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit the whole company was so filled with joy that Methodios immediately rose from his throne, took incense and gave thanks to the Lord. He then ordained Irene deaconess in the Holy Church. After he had advised her in the ways of administering and guiding the community, the Patriarch clothed her as Abbess and dismissed them with his blessing.

On reaching the monastery they held a great celebration for all their friends and spiritual children from the city. Only Irene could feel no joy, so great was her sense of inadequacy. However, the sisters reassured her. Alone in her quarters she prayed constantly, “Lord Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd of Your sheep, help Your servant and this, my flock, because we have no power of our own to resist the assaults of the demons. Leave us not without Your grace.” In answer to her prayer Irene was told, “Watch and pray without ceasing for from this day you will have the responsibility of the spiritual welfare of many for whom our Lord was incarnate and shed His precious blood, souls that He has committed to your care. Take care that the ‘blind do not lead the blind’ so that both fall into the ditch.” So Irene redoubled her spiritual exercises and in return she was endowed with great wisdom and received many revelations as to how to lead the flock.

Thus strengthened, she addressed the community of nuns: “I know, beloved sisters in Christ, that it was not logical that I, your humble, unworthy and illiterate servant, should be called to teach you, but the ways of God are mysterious. If it is by His grace that I am your superior, then I pray that you will obey me. Surely if we do not obey the laws (promised before God and His angels) of the habit we wear, we achieve nothing. For it is said: ‘faith without works is dead’ (St. James 2:17). Why have we left the unreal and temporal world? To disobey His commandments? If so, like the foolish virgins we also will lose the eternal kingdom. The soul cannot be divided so as to have both pride and humility, unrestricted pleasure and abstinence. Therefore let us rid our soul of worldly desire and seek only purity, humility, patience and love (prayer of St. Isaac the Syrian-- this prayer is said only during Holy Great Lent) lest we lose not only ourselves but others also.”

It was with the instinct of a mother that the future saint taught her spiritual children. And in the same spirit she gave thanks for the immense fruit that it bore in their lives. These and other experiences instilled such assurance of the Lord’s presence in their work that Irene asked Him (our Lord God) for the most responsible charisma of all, that of foresight, so that she might be able to have knowledge of the sisters’ impending trials, not for the purpose of gaining fame but to be better able to advise them. In answer to this prayer, there appeared to her a guardian angle who greeted her, saying, “Hail, fruitful servant of God, the Lord has sent me that more might be saved through your guidance. I am to remain at your side and disclose the events of the future. He then disappeared, yet remained with her, continually revealing the hidden problems not only of the nuns but of all who sought her advice. Irene in no way used this knowledge to reprimand or humiliate people but corrected their confessions in such a way that they understood she had certain supernatural powers. Her fame spread to such an extent that rich and poor alike gathered to seek her advice and yet, continually offering thanks to God, she increased in humility.

Soon after, her sister, the wife of Prince Varda, sent her eunuch to see Irene who was thus able to inform him of a recent revelation that the Prince would soon die at the wish of the Emperor Michael, who would himself immediately lose his life and kingdom. Despite the obvious confidential nature of the information, the sister told her husband everything. Nevertheless, with characteristic pride and lack of faith, he dismissed the idea. The events took their course and as the saint predicted, the following week he was killed in battle, closely followed by the unworthy Emperor. Irene continued her very remarkable ministry in the reign of his successor, Basil the Macedonian.

At that time a young and beautiful novice came to the convent through a calling to follow the Lord rather than to be married and live in the world. But the devil incited her previous fiancé with such a passion that to retrieve her he had recourse to a magician (that most faithful servant of the adversary). Weaving his spells in distant Cappadocia, this wizard caused the young girl to lose her mind and threaten all the time to drown herself. Lamenting her neglect of this young lamb, the saint received the power to defy the devil in this struggle. So she assembled the community, explained the situation and ordered everyone to fast for a week, make 100 prostrations a day and pray continually for an understanding of God’s will. On the third night of this discipline, Irene had a vision of St. Basil the Great advising her to take the novice to the convent of Vlachernae where the Mother of God would heal her. Arriving at that place with two of the senior nuns, they were so exhausted that they all fell asleep during their first all-night vigil of prayer. While Irene slept, her vision continued. A pilgrim procession appeared all clothed in white and golden robes and shinning with a strange and unearthly light, scattering flowers and incense on the path behind them. When Irene inquired to their purpose, they replied that the Mother of God was approaching. At that moment Blessed Mary (the Theotokos) appeared surrounded by hosts of angels, with such a radiant countenance that no one could look at her. She first visited the sick and then came to Irene who fell at her feet in fear; while lying there she heard the All-Holy One first call to St. Basil of Caesarea (in Asia Minor) and from there to cure the young girl, for as she said, “My Son and God has given you this power. Irene then awoke with the message, “Return to your convent and within three days your novice will be healed.” So she disclosed her vision to the others and they all departed in great joy, arriving home just in time for Friday Vespers.

After Vespers she instructed the whole community to lift their eyes and hands to heaven and with all their heart to cry, “Lord, have mercy.” After many hours when the church was wet with tears, the voices of Basil and Anastasia said to Irene, “Stretch out your hand, accept the gift and do not trouble us any more.” The package which miraculously appeared contained all the evil magician’s aids, among them model idols of the nun and her ex-fiancé. They gave thanks to God during another all-night vigil and in the morning sent the sick nun back to Vlachernae with an offering of holy bread and all the magical aids. After the Divine Liturgy there, the priest anointed her and then solemnly burnt the satanic objects. As they were consumed by the flames the suffering patient was released from her invisible bonds, and the idols cried out from the fire like pigs anticipating slaughter. The nun and all who were present were filled with holy fear and gave thanks to the Lord Who had delivered her in such a wonderful way.

However, the more Irene was respected for her good judgment and sanctity, the more she humbled herself. Especially at the offering of the Holy Mysteries to God (Holy Communion) on His holy altar, she was so consumed by her identity with the unrepentant thief that she had to hide her face to prevent people seeing the tears she shed. Let us now relate another miracle.

A young man named Nicholas, who was responsible for the convent vineyard, fell so desperately in love with one of the nuns that he lay awake at night listening to the suggestions of the evil powers as to how he might satisfy his desire. So demented was he that one night he became unconscious. When the good abbess heard of this the following morning she said, "Blessed be God who has allowed us to be the objects of the devil’s attention." Then she immediately gave orders for the boy to be sent to the Church of Anastasia, (Resurrection) so as to avoid taking the credit for his future healing. During the night St. Anastasia appeared to Irene and told her that she should not so readily lay aside the responsibility for healing her own servant. And so it was decided to confine him in a straightjacket tied to one of the pillars of the church, so that he might hear the many prayers the sisters offered on his behalf. Once during the singing of the Cherubic Hymn in the Divine Liturgy, after the priest had placed the Holy Gifts on the Holy Altar, the possessed man became so furious that he broke the chains, rushed to the Holy Doors (also called the Royal Doors), seized the priest and began to bite the flesh so savagely that Irene had to leave her stall and order him to be still. The command was so powerful that he immediately became calm and wished to return to his place of confinement, but found himself rooted to the spot. After the liturgy the saint prostrated herself beside the boy and with all her strength prayed to God for his healing. Finally she stood up and ordered the demon to leave his victim, seized the boy and hurled him to the ground. At this moment he was cured. He was then sent back to work with a strict rule of life to follow, and advised always to pray for the protection of the holy angels, that he might avoid such disturbances in future. He went on his way praising the Lord our God. The wonder-worker continued her way of patience and humility.

Sometimes she would remain in prayer and contemplation for as long as a week without ceasing, taking only uncooked vegetables and water for sustenance. On great feasts she would keep vigil in the courtyard in the company of the stars, continually giving thanks for the awesome beauty of creation. During one such vigil a truly marvelous miracle was, by divine grace, witnessed by one of the nuns, who, unable to sleep, left her cell and entered the courtyard. There she saw her abbess motionless, totally absorbed in prayer and in a state of levitation about one meter above the ground. This was not only one miracle, but another, that the nun observed for the two nearby cypress trees had bent their heads to the earth in homage before her. When she left her state of prayer, Irene blessed the trees and they returned to their former state. The sister (nun) who witnessed the event trembled thinking that it was a vision from the tempter, but later when others of the community noticed handkerchiefs placed in the tops of these same trees, she related the whole story. At this the whole sisterhood became so excited that Irene had to rebuke them, emphasizing the need to concentrate on their own way of prayer and charging them not to relate any extraordinary events until after her death.

All her life she kept the feast of St. Basil the Great with special devotion as he was from her own country. After that day, during the third watch of the night, she heard a voice from the invisible saying, “Welcome the sailor who brings fruit to you today and eat it with joy; let your soul rejoice.” Later when they were singing Matins again she heard a voice saying, “Go to the door and bring in the sailor who is visiting you.” So she went and invited him to enter. They bowed to one another and remained in church until after the liturgy. Then she asked how it was that he had come to them. He said, “I am a sailor from Patinas and I joined a boat coming to this town for business. As we were passing the coast of that island, we saw a very old man on the shore who called to us to wait for him. We could not because we were near the rocks, so with a good wind behind us we left. He then shouted all the more loudly ordering the boat to stop. This it did at once. Then he came to us walking on the waves and soon entered the boat. Then taking three apples from beneath his cloak, he gave them to me saying, ‘When you go to the capital, give these to the Patriarch and tell him that the Almighty sends them to him from His beloved disciple, John.’ After that he took another three and asked that these be presented to you, the Abbess of Chrysovalantou. To you he said, ‘Eat these and all that your beautiful soul desires will be granted you because this gift comes to you from John in Paradise.’ Having said this he blessed God, wished us well and disappeared.” When she heard this, the saint shed tears of joy and offered a prayer of thanksgiving to God for His evangelist and most beloved disciple. The obedient sailor asked for a blessing and departed.

Irene then fasted for a week continually, thanking God for His most wonderful gift. Then, by His grace, she ate small pieces of the first apple daily without any other food or water for the next forty days. (As a further sign of God’s grace the remaining apples increased in beauty and aroma.) At the same time such fragrance came out of her mouth while eating that it seemed to all the nuns that she was always making myrrh. Then, on Holy Thursday, she directed the community to receive the Holy Mysteries and following the liturgy she took the second apple and gave each one a piece. When they tasted the amazing sweetness, it seemed as if their very souls were being fed. The third apple she kept until its purpose should be revealed. The presence of the apples was such a blessing that on Holy Friday the saint had a beautiful vision during the singing of the great passion hymns. She suddenly became aware of countless radiant angelic beings entering the church. Some had stringed instruments and sang most beautiful hymns to our Lord, while the others had goblets of Holy Myrrh, which they poured onto the altar, filling the whole convent with a wonderful fragrance. Among these beings was a particularly majestic man, his face shining like the sun. All the others treated him with great devotion when he approached and offered him a great shroud with which to cover the fragrant altar. Then the angel who stood by the altar cried out with great sadness to this great one saying, “Until when, O Lord?” A voice replied, “Until the second Solomon, when the heights will be united with the depths and all will be one. Then the Lord will be exalted and the memory of Irene will be glorified.” The good abbess immediately realized that the vision confirmed her most fundamental teaching, that neither she nor any of the sisters could be glorified until in death they achieved the Kingdom. So again she gathered the community and strongly re-emphasized the necessity to run from the honor of men because a soul who desires this honor will be blind to the glory of God. So let us now relate other wonderful events from her life before recording her blessed repose in the Lord.

A noble relative of Irene’s was falsely accused of plotting to take the Emperor’s life. The Emperor not only committed him to prison but was persuaded to order his death by drowning at sea. Various friends and relatives, unable to help, ran to the abbess to implore her intervention. So she comforted them and advised them to return home and have faith in the Lord. At the same time she retired to her cell to intercede for the unjustly condemned man. The good Lord who so readily does the will of His servants who call upon Him, intervened in a wonderful way by arranging for Irene to appear before the Emperor in a dream, threatening him and saying, “O King, get up immediately and release the prisoner condemned through jealousy. If you do not listen to me I will request the King of Kings to cause your death and the deliverance of your worthless body to wild animals. Naturally the Emperor became very angry and asked who it was who was threatening him so arrogantly. “I am the abbess of Chrysovalantou,” she said, “Irene is my name.” So saying, she hit him so hard that with pain he awoke. At that moment she disappeared. Thoroughly amazed, the Emperor summoned his guards to find out how the insolent woman had escaped. When all said they had seen nothing, he realized that he had experienced a vision from God. So the following day the condemned man was questioned concerning the accusation and quickly proved his loyalty to the Emperor’s satisfaction. Before releasing him the Emperor inquired if he knew of an Irene of Chrysovalantou. “Of course,” he replied, “She is a relative of mine, a most virtuous and God-fearing abbess, so humble that she never leaves her monastery and only rarely receives visitors.

Soon after, the Emperor sent his nobles with a skilled artist to pay a courtesy call on Irene, hoping that this artist might later paint a portrait of her to provide confirmation of the vision. By the grace of God all this was known to the saint, so shortly after Matins she returned to the church with the community and gave instructions to bring the visitors to her as soon as they arrived. As soon as the nobles approached to pay their respects to the saint, she became so radiant that they fell to the floor, unable to behold such a presence. Immediately Irene consoled them saying, “Do not be afraid. I am also a fallible creature. But why does your skeptical master put you to all this trouble? Tell him to do as I said and release the prisoner or else all that I prophesied will befall him.” Still overcome with awe, the nobles agreed to report this to the Emperor. But meanwhile they begged to be allowed to stay with her and hear more words of wisdom. (This they had planned to enable the artist to obtain a good impression of her appearance.) The portrait was later shown to the Emperor and once again the whole company was overwhelmed by a great light.

Temporarily blinded, the Emperor cried out in the words of Psalm 50, “Have mercy on me, O God, in Your great mercy." He was even more amazed when his blindness passed and he saw from the portrait that it was the very person he had seen in the vision. He immediately released the prisoner with full honors and sent a message of humble thanks to the saint for intervening in his irresponsibility. He also asked that at her convenience she would bless both himself and the Empress with her most holy hands. In reply she said, “Thanks be to God who desires not the death of a sinner but his repentance. Do not thank me, glorify Him.” With regard to the blessing, she said, “It is neither right for your Majesties to enter the convent nor for me to visit you. You do not need the blessing of a sinful woman when you have the Holy Patriarch and spiritual directors of the great monasteries to advise you. Do as they say and you will rule this empire with wisdom. Please attend to what I say and may the right hand of God watch over you.”

After this both the Royal Household and the family of the exonerated prisoner were very attentive to the example and teaching of the convent of Chrysovalantou. The convent in turn received numerous gifts. Among many other gifts of the Spirit, the holy abbess became known for her ability to predict death and was thus able to help strengthen many a soul during its last hours on earth. Despite all these wonderful gifts our future saint was, after all, only a mortal being and the angel’s prophecy that she would be called to the divine presence on the day following the commemoration of St. Panteleimon had to be fulfilled. They kept the day before St. Panteleimon as the feast of the foundation of their monastery. Irene spent the whole week before the feast preparing herself by remaining all day in meditation and fasting.

This meant taking only water with small pieces of that extraordinary holy apple sent from paradise by the beloved disciple of Christ our Lord. She ate it now because she felt that the time to join the bridegroom was near. From the time of eating the first fragment all enmity disappeared and the whole monastery was again filled with that extraordinary fragrance. Nevertheless, in a moment of doubt she cried out with great anguish and the sisters rushed to her aid. By the grace of God she immediately recovered her composure and said, “Today, my children, I depart from this world and you will see me no more. For the time has come for me to pass to eternal life. Therefore elect as your superior Sister Mary, for I know that she has already been chosen by God. I know that she will lead you according to His Will and keep you on the narrow path so that you will also attain to the broad avenues of paradise. Hate the world and all that is in it, for as our Lord and Master has said, ‘Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, there is no love for the Father in him’ (I John 2:15), because all these temporal things are vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2). Never follow the will of the flesh but only the Will of God because it is He who gave you all things that you may return them to Him in that day.”

So raising her hands and eyes to the heavens she prayed. “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, the Good Shepherd who has saved and fed us with Your own most precious Blood, I deliver in Your Holy Hands this little flock. Hide it under the shadow of Your wings (Psalm 90), protect it from the wiles of the devil for Yours is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory and to You we give thanks for ever and ever.”

Having prayed thus she sat up and smiled at the sight of the holy angels who greeted her, and at once her face shone like the sun. Then she closed her eyes as if she wished to rest and her spirit was delivered to the Lord.

Such was the crowd of both peasants and nobles who flocked to keep the all-night vigil over her body that the monastery gates had to be closed by force. On the following day the entire congregation, now much larger, who came to pay their final respects were amazed at the beautiful features of one who was more than 102 years of age. Throughout the ceremonies of that day the convent was filled with an unexplainable and indescribable fragrance which persisted at the saint’s burial place for many years. Countless miracles occurred at that site and to this day many of those who, in faith, ask her prayers find that they are answered. All this the saint does to the continual frustration of the powers of darkness and to the eternal glory of the all merciful Lord to Whom alone is due all honor might, majesty, dominion and power, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.

Holy St. Irene,
Pray To God For Us!

Glory Be To God For All Things!

Γιατί λέμε «Ὑπεραγία Θεοτόκε, σῶσον ἡμᾶς» ;


Τήν ἐπίκληση «Ὑπεραγία Θεοτόκε, σῶσον ἡμᾶς» πολλοί τήν παρεξηγοῦν. Νομίζουν ὃτι δι’ αὐτῆς ἡ Θεοτόκος κηρύσσεται ὡς κύρια πηγή σωτηρίας, ἀξίωμα πού ἀνήκει μόνο στόν ἂχραντο τόκο της, τόν Θεάνθρωπο Κύριο. Γι’ αὐτό ἀντικαθιστοῦν τήν ἐπίκληση, πού θεωροῦν δογματικά ἐσφαλμένη, μέ ἂλλη: «Ὑπεραγία Θεοτόκε πρέσβευε ὑπέρ ἡμῶν». Ἡ ἀντικατάσταση αὐτή, ὀρθή στό νόημα καί τή διατύπωσή της, δέν ἒρχεται ὡστόσο σέ ἀντίθεση πρός τήν πρώτη ἐπίκληση. Καί οἱ δύο ἐκφράζουν τό ἲδιο πράγμα.

Κατά τή δογματική πίστη τῆς Ἐκκλησίας μας, ἡ Θεοτόκος οὐδέποτε λαμβάνεται ὡς πρώτη καί κύρια πηγή σωτηρίας, κάτι πού θά ἐρχόταν σέ ἀντίθεση μέ τό λυτρωτικό ἀξίωμα τοῦ Χριστοῦ, «ὡς μόνου μεσίτη μεταξύ Θεοῦ καί ἀνθρώπων καί ὡς μόνης πηγῆς σωτηρίας». Σέ μιά τέτοια περίπτωση ἡ πρόταση θά ...
ἦταν δογματικῶς ἐπιλήψιμη, ἡ δέ Ἐκκλησία δέν θά τή χρησιμοποιοῦσε στή λατρεία της. Τό ρῆμα σώζω (“σῶσον”) ἐδῶ ἒχει ἂλλη σημασία, κυρίως σε ὃ,τι ἀφορᾶ στό ὂργανο διά τοῦ ὁποίου τελεῖται ἡ σωτηρία. Ἡ Θεοτόκος σώζει τόν ἂνθρωπο ὂχι ὡς πρώτη καί κύρια πηγή σωτηρίας, ἀλλά κατά δεύτερο λόγο καί ἒμμεσα, διά τῆς προσευχῆς, τῶν δεήσεων καί τῆς χάρης της, ὡς πάναγνης Μητέρας τοῦ σαρκωθέντα Λόγου τοῦ Θεοῦ. Αὐτό ἰσχύει καί γιά τήν προσευχή καί τό μεσιτικό ἀξίωμα ὃλων τῶν Ἁγίων.

Σέ τελική ἀνάλυση καί ἐφόσον ἡ σωτηρία παρέχεται ἀπό τό Θεό διά τῆς πρεσβείας τῆς ἁγνῆς Θεομήτορος, οἱ δύο ἐπικλήσεις ἐκφράζουν τό ἲδιο πράγμα καί δέν μπορεῖ νά ὑπάρξει οὐσιαστικός προβληματισμός σ’ ἐκείνους πού γνωρίζουν τά δογματικά ζητήματα τῆς πίστεως μας. Στά ἀστήρικτα βέβαια πνεύματα μπορεῖ νά ὑπάρξει κάποιος ‘σκανδαλισμός’, σ` αὐτά ὃμως πρέπει νά φωτίζει καί νά καθοδηγεῖ στήν ἀλήθεια ἡ διδάσκουσα ἀρχή τῆς Ἐκκλησίας.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Monk and Saint Panteleimon ( St. Paisios )

Close to Karyes, there were two Romanians living as ascetics in the same Cell. One of them fell gravely ill at one time and the other, unfortunately, could hardly be bothered to look after him. Thus he kept begging Saint Panteleimon either to cure the invalid quickly, or to take him from this life, in order to be spared the small amount of trouble involved in looking after him.

One day, while he was again begging Saint Panteleimon, the Saint appeared to him and said:

"What are you begging for? You are devoid of virtues. Take care of your brother and you will get a trivial reward from God."

The words of Saint Panteleimon startled the monk. From then on he looked after the invalid with the utmost willingness and asked God to keep him alive for many years, so that he could continue to take care of him in his old age.

From Athonite Fathers and Athonite Matters, pp. 147-148.

St. Paisios

Το θαύμα του Αγίου Παντελεήμονος στο Γέροντα Ιωσήφ τον Βατοπαιδινό

Τότε, εν έτει 1951, η Συνοδεία του Οσίου Ιωσήφ του Ησυχαστή αποφάσισε να μεταφερθεί στα ησυχαστικά κελιά της Νέας Σκήτης, κοντά στον Πύργο, όπου το κλίμα ήταν ηπιότερο και οι αχθοφορίες μικρότερης κλίμακας και έντασης.

Ο μοναχός Ιωσήφ έμεινε 12 χρόνια κοντά στο μακάριο Γέροντα Ιωσήφ τον Ησυχαστή μέχρι την οσιακή κοίμηση του δεύτερου ανήμερα της Κοιμήσεως της Θεοτόκου το 1959. Στο διάστημα αυτό ήρθαν ακόμη και συγκαταριθμήθηκαν στη συνοδεία τους ο γέροντας Χαράλαμπος, μετέπειτα Ηγούμενος της Ιεράς Μονής Διονυσίου, ο γέροντας Εφραίμ, μετέπειτα Ηγούμενος της Μονής Φιλόθεου, ο οποίος επάνδρωσε τις Μονές Καρακάλου, Κωσταμονίτου, Ξηροποτάμου με Ηγουμένους, δικά του πνευματικά παιδιά και ο οποίος σήμερα είναι πνευματικός πατέρας των Ηγουμένων των προαναφερόμενων Μονών και έχει ιδρύσει 20 περίπου Μονές στην Αμερική. Ο μοναχός Ιωσήφ ξανασυναντήθηκε με τους προστάτες του Αγίους Αναργύρους στο ομώνυμο κελί της Νέας Σκήτης, συνασκούμενος με τον π. Θεοφύλακτο από το 1951 έως το 1959.
Εκείνη την περίοδο, λόγω της επιδείνωσης της υγείας του και των συνεχών αιμοπτύσεων πήγε στη Θεσσαλονίκη ώστε να υποβληθεί σε σχετικές με το πρόβλημα του, ιατρικές εξετάσεις. Παρενθετικά και προκειμένου να επιχειρηθεί μία αντικειμενικότερη προσέγγιση της σκληρής δοκιμασίας υγειάς με την οποία αναμετριόταν καθημερινά ο μοναχός Ιωσήφ, θα αντλήσουμε γνώση απευθυνόμενοι στην ιατρική επιστήμη η οποία αποσαφηνίζει ότι, η γαστρορραγία είναι παθολογική κατάσταση, που χαρακτηρίζεται από αιμορραγία στομάχου και στις περισσότερες περιπτώσεις απαιτεί επιθετική ενδονοσοκομειακή αγωγή.
Η παθολογική αυτή κατάσταση είναι συχνά σιωπηλή, αλλά άμεσα απειλητική για την ζωή του ασθενούς, λόγω της ραγδαίας πτώσης του αιματοκρίτη, της πίεσης του αίματος, της αιμάτωσης ζωτικών οργάνων. Πόνος στην κοιλιά, καφέ, καφεοειδής ή κόκκινος έμετος, μαύρα κόπρανα είναι συμπτώματα της γαστρορραγίας ενώ δεν είναι σπάνιο το φαινόμενο, η γαστρορραγία να έχει ως μόνο σύμπτωμα τα μαύρα κόπρανα (μέλαινες κενώσεις)
Η επιστροφή του, λοιπόν, συνοδευόταν και από την κατηγορηματική γνωμάτευση των γιατρών ότι, το πρόβλημα της υγείας του έχρηζε χειρουργικής επέμβασης. Παρόλα αυτά, όπου ο Θεός βούλεται νικάτε φύσεως τάξις και η εξέλιξη της δοκιμασίας αυτής έλαβε ξεχωριστή και θαυμαστή τροπή: «Για μένα, ο Γέρων Θεοφύλακτος, όταν έπασχε το στομάχι μου, παρεκάλεσε πολύ τον άγιο Παντελεήμονα και τον είδε στο ναό του, και του είπε ότι θα γίνω καλά και να μη κάμω εγχείρηση την οποίαν είχαν αποφασίσει οι θεράποντες ιατροί μου. Είχα έλκος προχωρημένης μορφής και καμία δίαιτα ούτε φάρμακο μου πρόσφερε τίποτε. Μετά από την αποχή από όλα όσα με έβλαπταν περισσότερο από δυο χρόνια δεν υπήρχε άλλη λύση από την εκτομή. Τότε επενέβη ο ένδοξος μεγαλομάρτυρας του Χριστού, ο συμπαθέστατος Παντελεήμων, και παράγγειλε στον γέροντα Θεοφύλακτο να μου πει επιτακτικά να μη κάμω εγχείρηση, άλλα να το αφήσω στην πρόνοια της Παναγίας μας. Αμέσως θεραπεύθηκα τελείως, για να το διαπιστώσω δε και πρακτικά επισκέφθηκα τους θεράποντες ιατρούς μου, οι οποίοι γνώριζαν την ασθένειά μου σε όλη της την έκταση για να μου πουν τώρα σε ποιά κατάσταση βρίσκομαι. Μου έκαμανακτινοσκόπηση και δεν βρήκαν απολύτως τίποτε, παρά μόνο μικρή ουλή παλιάς επουλωμένης πληγής». Ο Γέροντας έτρεφε ιδιαίτερη αγάπη και ευλάβεια στον Άγιο και Ιαματικό Παντελεήμονα, του οποίου είχε φιλοτεχνήσει και εικόνα, δηλώνοντας μάλιστα ότι ο Άγιος ήταν προστάτης και της οικογένειάς του. Κάνοντας μια σύντομη αναδρομή στο παρελθόν, θα αναφέρουμε ένα γεγονός που αποδεικνύει με εναργέστατο τρόπο ότι, η Θεία παρουσία και τα θαυμαστά γεγονότα δεν έλειψαν ποτέ από τη ζωή τόσο του γέροντα όσο και της οικογένειάς του.

ΠΗΓΗ. Γ.Τασούδη.Μακαριστός Γέροντας Ιωσήφ Βατοπαιδινός.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Θαύμα της Αγίας Παρασκευής…

Της Σταυρούλας Ζαχαριά, ετών 38

Ήμουν στον 7ο μήνα κύησης όταν άρχισε να δακρύζει διαρκώς το δεξί μου μάτι. Ήταν πολύ ενοχλητικό και μου προκαλούσε ζάλη και εκνευρισμό η θολή όραση.

Χειρούργος οφθαλμίατρος μου είπε πως είναι ήπιο σύμπτωμα μιας πάθησης επικίνδυνης, με θεραπεία δύσκολη συνήθως χειρουργική. Απόφραξη δακρυϊκού σωλήνα. Προσπάθησε να κάνει διάνοιξη με καθετηριασμό έτσι ώστε να αποφύγω το χειρουργείο. Το αποτέλεσμα ήταν αρνητικό. Μου είπε να κάνω υπομονή να βάζω τοπική αντιβίωση και ότι πρέπει να χειρουργηθώ πριν πρηστεί και προχωρήσει η ζημιά.
Οφθαλμίατρος δεύτερος με συμβούλεψε και αυτός ότι πρέπει να κάνω χειρουργείο οπωσδήποτε.

Έτσι πήγα σε μεγάλη κλινική,να με δει ένας κορυφαίος χειρουργός που έχει κάνει εξειδίκευση σε θέματα δακρυϊκού σωλήνα. Μετά από ενδελεχή έλεγχο μου είπε πως πρέπει να χειρουργηθώ γιατί αν δεν το κάνω είναι θέμα χρόνου η μόλυνση, πράγμα επικίνδυνο μιας και είναι κοντά στον εγκέφαλο. Συγκεκριμένα μου είπε πως είναι τσιμεντωμένο και δεν ανοίγει. Στο χειρουργείο θα έκανε παράκαμψη με ένα σωληνάκι απ” το δακρυϊκό πόρο ως τη μύτη και αυτό φυσικά σε συνεργασία με χειρούργο Ω.Ρ.Λ. Είναι κάτι που δεν μπορείς να αποφύγεις μιας και δεν υπάρχει άλλη μόνιμη θεραπεία.
Επίσης αν μου πρηστεί το μάτι έστω και λίγο θα πάρω αμέσως τηλέφωνο για να μου δώσει βαριά αντιβίωση γιατί όπως είπαμε είναι πολύ επικίνδυνο. Άρχισα να ψάχνω και μέσω γνωστού έρχομαι σε επαφή με μια κυρία που είχε περάσει το ίδιο το 2008 κάνοντας χειρουργείο στον Ευαγγελισμό και στα δυο μάτια. Μου είπε και κείνη ακριβώς ότι και οι προηγούμενοι γιατροί. Εκείνης μάλιστα κινδύνεψε η ζωή της και ταλαιπωρήθηκε με επαναλαμβανόμενα χειρουργεία για ένα χρόνο.

Ήταν Παρασκευή βράδυ (19-4-2013) όταν μου είπε «σε παρακαλώ για να μην περάσεις όσα πέρασα και κινδυνέψεις, μόλις σου πρηστεί έστω και λίγο φύγε για εφημερεύων νοσοκομείο. Της απάντησα πως απόψε έχει ήδη ξεκινήσει να πρήζεται, πως φοβάμαι και δεν ξέρω τι να κάνω. Δεν ήθελα να πάρω ούτε βαριά αντιβίωση ούτε χειρουργείο με γενική αναισθησία να κάνω, μιας και πια είχα γεννήσει και θήλαζα το μικρό μου αγοράκι. Το πρόβλημα όμως ήταν πολύ έντονο. Είχα ήδη 4 μήνες δακρύρροια, μου προκαλούσε ζαλάδα, θολή όραση και δυσκολευόμουν να φροντίσω το παιδί μου. Επίσης όταν το θήλαζα σκουπιζόμουν με χαρτί συνέχεια για να μην πέφτει πάνω στο μικρό.

Την άλλη μέρα Σάββατο (20-4-2013) ένιωθα πολύ χάλια. Το μάτι ήταν κόκκινο, γεμάτο τσίμπλες, είχε πρηστεί, είχε βαρύνει, δάκρυζε ασταμάτητα, έκαιγε και η όρασή μου ήταν ακόμη πιο θολή. Εκεί η υπομονή μου εξαντλήθηκε. Άρχισα να κλαίω και να λέω ότι ούτε το παιδί μου έχω καταφέρει να δω όπως είναι. Όλα τα βλέπω θολά και με ζαλίζουν τόσο καιρό. Τι θα κάνω…??? Ναι. Ξέρω ότι πρέπει να κάνω εγχείρηση, αλλά αυτό σημαίνει διακοπή θηλασμού, αφού θα κάνω ολική νάρκωση. Μου είπε τότε ο σύζυγός μου πως έχει κάνει τάμα στην Αγία Παρασκευή, να γίνω καλά χωρίς χειρουργείο και να προσευχηθώ κι εγώ. Μπήκα στο ίντερνετ και διάβασα το βίο Της. Την παρακάλεσα κι ακούμπησα το μάτι μου πάνω στην εικόνα που υπήρχε στο ίντερνετ (στο σπίτι δεν είχαμε εικόνα Της).

Αμέσως ένιωσα δροσιά εκεί που έκαιγε το μάτι μου. Δεν ήθελα να πάρω το μάτι μου από την εικόνα της. Τέτοια ανακούφιση. Βέβαια σκέφτηκα πως είναι η ιδέα μου… Μετά από λίγη ώρα, παίρνω να θηλάσω το παιδί, κάτι που με στεναχωρούσε, καθώς όταν έσκυβα να το κοιτάξω, έτρεχε ποτάμι το δάκρυ μου πάνω του. Ο σύζυγός μου απέναντι μου συζητούσε για έναν τέταρτο χειρουργό οφθαλμίατρο, που θα πηγαίναμε μες τη βδομάδα και πως μπορεί να μη χρειαστεί γιατί η Αγία Παρασκευή θα κάνει το θαύμα! Σκέφτηκα μακάρι. Ξαφνικά (εκείνη τη στιγμή) με πιάνει μια έντονη καταρροή από τη μύτη. Νόμισα πως κόλλησα ίωση και είπα ωχ Χριστέ μου μόνο αυτό μου έλειπε τώρα. Ακολούθησε ένα έντονο φτέρνισμα και ξαφνικά νιώθω ότι πνίγομαι από κάτι πίσω στο λαιμό μου.

Στην προσπάθειά μου να ελευθερωθώ κάνω ένα χαα και πετάγεται από το στόμα μου ένα κομμάτι συμπαγές μήκους 5 εκατοστών, πλάτους 4 χιλιοστών (μέτρηση από ειδικό χάρακα χειρουργού που το είδε μετά) σαν σκουλήκι, που είχε το σχήμα του δακρυϊκού σωλήνα όπως είναι στις φωτογραφίες των βιβλίων που είχα διαβάσει σχετικά το τελευταίο διάστημα. Τρομάξαμε και οι δυο και καταλάβαμε πως κάτι παράξενο έγινε. Εκείνη την ώρα ένιωσα έντονη δροσιά στο μάτι μου. Σταμάτησε να δακρύζει. Ξεπρήστηκε, έφυγε το βάρος, η θολή όραση, η ζάλη και η κολλώδης ουσία που σχημάτιζε τσίμπλες. Ναι. Καταλάβαμε τι έγινε και γονατίσαμε στη χάρη της Αγίας Παρασκευής (κάτι που νιώσαμε και κάναμε και οι δύο πρώτη φορά).

Έχουν περάσει τόσες μέρες και το μάτι μου είναι σαν να μην είχε ποτέ τίποτα. Κάθε πρωί που ξυπνάω σαστίζω συνειδητοποιώντας αυτό που έγινε. Οι γιατροί που επικοινώνησα μαζί τους ενθουσιάστηκαν. Με ρώτησαν τι έκανα πριν και πως αυτό δεν έχει ξαναγίνει στην καριέρα τους και ούτε υπάρχει στη βιβλιογραφία. Μάλιστα μου ζήτησαν να το φωτογραφίσουν και να πάρουν δείγμα μιας και δεν ξέρουν τη σύστασή του, για να το παρουσιάσουν σε οφθαλμολογικά συνέδρια! Είναι κανονικό εκμαγείο δακρυϊκού σωλήνα όπως είπαν. Με ευχαρίστησαν κιόλας γιατί αυτό όπως είπαν έχει επιστημονικό ενδιαφέρον. Επίσης παραδέχτηκαν πως έχω ιαθεί πλήρως! Πως αυτό δεν έχει ξαναγίνει και όταν τους είπα για την Αγία Παρασκευή, είπαν τι να πούμε συμβαίνουν κι αυτά. Εδώ η επιστήμη σηκώνει τα χέρια ψηλά και έκαναν το σταυρό τους. Ευχαριστώ την Αγία Παρασκευή που με βοήθησε είναι πραγματικά δίπλα μας, μας ακούει τόσο τόσο εύκολα κι απλά.

(Όλο αυτό που μου συνέβη ξέρω πως πρέπει να το μοιραστώ. Έγινε για κάποιο λόγο. Δεν είμαι η εκλεκτή του Θεού. Δεν γνωρίζω πολλά για πολλούς Αγίους όπως δεν ήξερα και για την Αγία Παρασκευή και λυπάμαι γι αυτό). Τώρα έμαθα. Μας ακούν και μας αγαπούν.

Ιεραποστολή στους Ανθρωποφάγους!!

Ο Ορθόδοξος Έλλην Ιερα­πόστολος Φιλόθεος

Το αναδημοσιεύουμε για να πα­ρουσιάσουμε ένα γνήσιο ιεραποστο­λικό φρόνημα που όλοι το έχουμε ανάγκη.

Αυτός ο Φιλόθεος, ήταν φοιτητής της Θεολογικής Σχολής της Χάλκης του Οικουμενικού Πατριαρχείου και αποφοιτούσε το 1874. Ο Φιλόθεος Α­θηναϊδης, καταγόμενος από την κω­μόπολη Γραμμενίτσα Άρτας, ήταν κα­λός σπoυδαστής φιλoμαθής και ε­ντρυφούσε πολύ στη μελέτη των αγίων Γραφών. Όταν τελείωσε τον κύ­κλο των σπουδών του, ο Διευθυντής της Σχολής τού πρότεινε να χειροτο­νηθεί ιερέας. Σύμφωνα με τον κα­νονισμό της Σχολής, για να πάρει το πτυχίο του ο οποιοσδήποτε απόφοι­τος έπρεπε πρώτα να χειροτονηθεί ιε­ρέας.

Ξαφνικά από μέσα του αναπήδησε ένας πόθος για ιεραποστολική δράση και αρνείται να χειροτονηθεί. Ο διά­λογος που έγινε μεταξύ αυτού και του τότε Διευθυντή της Θεολογικής Σχο­λής της Χάλκης είναι αξιόλογος, απο­καλυπτικός και μεγάλου ενδιαφέροντος. Αποκαλύπτεται ένα γνήσιο Ορ­θόδοξο ιεραποστολικό φρόνημα. Η καρδιά του Φιλόθεου επυρπολείτο από πόθο προσφοράς και θυσίας, να πάθει και να υποφέρει για το Χριστό. Εφλέγετο από επιθυμία να κηρύξει το Χριστό στα έθνη και στους ειδωλολά­τρες, ώστε κι αυτοί να γνωρίσουν τον Χριστό και να σωθούν, χωρίς να προ­σβλέπει σε αμοιβές και απολαβές. Ή­θελε να γίνει Ιεραπόστολος. Πρέπει δε να ομολογήσουμε ότι αυτό το φρό­νημα λείπει σήμερα από την Ορθόδο­ξη Ελλάδα.

Το φρόνημα του Φιλόθεου διδά­σκει το δρόμο και το καθήκον της ιε­ραποστολής που πηγάζει από το Ευ­αγγέλιο του Χριστού. Είναι πέρα και πάνω από θέσεις και εκκλησιαστικά αξιώματα και απευθύνεται αδιάκριτα προς όλους τους Ορθόδοξους Χρι­στιανούς, άνδρες ή γυναίκες. Το ιεραποστολικό φρόνημα είναι χάρισμα Θεού, είναι δωρεά του Αγίου Πνεύματος, είναι δρόμος αγιασμού. Νομί­ζουμε ότι αυτό το γνήσιο, ευαγγελικό φρόνημα έχει εξασθενήσει σήμερα στην Ορθόδοξη Ελλάδα. Είναι λάθος να ταυτίζεται με τα εκκλησιαστικά α­ξιώματα και την ιερωσύνη. Είναι χα­ρίσματα που δίδει ο Θεός στους πιστούς και δεκτικούς χαρισμάτων για να τα προσφέρουνε στην Εκκλησία του Χριστού ως διακονήματα, όπως τονίζει και 'ο Απ. Παύλος (Α' Κορ. 12/ιβ,28-31). Όλοι μπορούμε να γίνουμε Ιεραπόστολοι ή ακόμα και συνεργοί Ιεραποστόλων, αρκεί να το επιθυμή­σουμε. Άλλωστε η αγία μας Ορθόδο­ξη Εκκλησία ανεκήρυξε ως ισαποστό­λους και αγίους την Αγ. Φωτεινή τη Σαμαρείτιδα, την Αγ. Ελένη κ.ά. Αλ­λά και όλοι οι μεγάλοι άγιοι της Εκκλησίας μας, όπως ο Άγιος Δημήτρι­ος, ο Άγιος Παντελεήμων, ο Άγιος Γε­ώργιος, η Αγία Παρασκευή κ.ά. ήταν Ιεραπόστολοι. Γι' αυτό ο Θεός τους ανέδειξε και τους στεφάνωσε με το στέφανο του μαρτυρίου.

Τα μηνύματα που βγαίνουν από το παραπάνω άρθρο είναι πάμπολλα και προς πολλές κατευθύνσεις.

Η Ορθόδοξη εξωτερική ιεραπο­στολή περιμένει Ιεραποστόλους από την Ελλάδα.

Ο διάλογος έχει ως εξής:

.... Ο Φιλόθεος, όπως μάθαμε, προ­σκλήθηκε να χειροτονηθεί και μάλι­στα του είπαν ότι είχε «προοπτικές» να γίνει αρχιερέας.

- Όλα καλά και άγια, είπε, αλλά η εντολή του Χριστού;
- Ποια εντολή; τον ρώτησε ο Διευθυντής της Σχολής.
- Η εντολή «πορευθέντες μαθητεύ­σατε πάντα τα έθνη» (Ματθ. 28/κη,19). Εφόσον υπάρχει έστω και ένας άπι­στος πάνω στη γη που δε γνωρίζει το Χριστό και το ευαγγέλιο, η εντολή αυτή υποχρεώνει όλους τους πιστούς να εργάζονται για τον ευαγγελισμό τους. Γιατί οι άλλες Εκκλησίες εργά­ζονται ιεραποστολικά μέσα στους απίστους και τους αγρίους; Υπάρ­χουν εκατομμύρια άπιστοι και ειδω­λολάτρες. Ποιος θα τους διδάξει; Ποιος θα τους φωτίσει; Ποιος θα εκ­πληρώσει την εντολή του Χριστού, αν δεν το κάνουμε εμείς οι Χριστιανοί; Αν όλοι γίνουμε αρχιερείς μένοντας στο ίδιο μέρος, πού είναι τότε το ευ­αγγελικό παράγγελμα και η αποστο­λική εργασία στους απίστους; Ο Παύ­λος περιγράφει όλες τις κακουχίες που πέρασε για το ευαγγέλιο του Χρι­στού (Β' Κορινθ. 11/ια,23-28). Και όλα αυτά τα πέρασε για τη σωτηρία των αδελφών, για να τους οδηγήσει στη Χάρη του Θεού μέσω του Ευαγγελί­ου, για να εκπληρώσει την εντολή «πορευθέντες μαθητεύσατε πάντα τα έθνη!»

- Κι εμείς, απάντησε ο Διευθυ­ντής, εκτελούμε αυτή την εντολή. Η Ορθόδοξη Ρωσική Εκκλησία εργάζε­ται μεταξύ των απίστων, αποστέλλει Ιεραποστόλους στην Ιαπωνία και την Κίνα που κηρύττουν το ευαγγέλιο και επιστρέφουν αθάνατες και λογικές ψυχές στον Ιησού Χριστό. Στο Πεκί­νο υπάρχουν πάνω από 50.000 Ορθό­δοξοι Χριστιανοί Κινέζοι. Έχουν να­ούς, επισκόπους, ιερείς, διαβάζουν το Λόγο του Θεού στην κινέζικη γλώσ­σα.

- Αφού, λοιπόν, κ. Διευθυντά, η Ορθόδοξη Ρωσική Εκκλησία εργάζε­ται ιεραποστολικά κι έτσι εκπληρώ­νει την εντολή του Χριστού, γιατί να μην εργάζεται και η Ορθόδοξη Ελλη­νική Εκκλησία, αυτή που στο παρελ­θόν τόσο καλά εργάστηκε, διά των με­γάλων της φωστήρων, για την επι­στροφή των Σλάβων, των Βουλγάρων και τόσων άλλων λαών;

- Με ποια μέσα; ρώτησε ο Διευθυ­ντής.

- Υπήρξαν περιστάσεις που υπήρχαν πολλά μέσα και μπορούσαν να γίνουν πολλά καλά. Ίσως αντίξοες περιστάσεις δεν το επέτρεψαν, αλλά, Θεού θέλοντος, θα γίνει στο μέλλον. Γιατί οι Ρώσοι να εργάζονται και να τους επαινούμε κι εμείς να αναπαυό­μαστε; Γιατί να μένουμε στάσιμοι; Γιατί να μην εργαζόμαστε προς δό­ξαν θεού για την επιστροφή των α­δελφών μας από το σκοτάδι της α­γνωσίας στο φως του Χριστού; Όχι, κύριε Διευθυντά! Εγώ δε θέλω να γίνω αρχιερέας! θέλω να κηρύξω το Χριστό μεταξύ των αγρίων και των απίστων. Ας γίνουν άλλοι αρχιερείς.

- Ναι, αλλά αν δε χειροτονηθείς, δε θα πάρεις το δίπλωμά σου!

- Οι Απόστολοι δεν πήραν θεολο­γικά διπλώματα για να κηρύξουν την αλήθεια. Αλλά με ειλικρινή πίστη στο θεό, με φλογερή αγάπη στο Χρι­στό και με ενθουσιώδη ζήλο για την εξάπλωση της αληθινής γνώσης του θεού με το κήρυγμα και το φωτισμό των ανθρώπων.

- Ώστε;

- Εγώ ούτε θα χειροτονηθώ, ούτε δίπλωμα θα πάρω, αφού αυτός είναι ο κανονισμός της Σχολής!

- Και γιατί δε χειροτονείσαι, να πάρεις το δίπλωμά σου, και μετά να ακολουθήσεις την κλίση της καρδιάς σου;

- Διότι, για να αξιωθώ αυτού του αξιώματος, πρέπει πρώτα να δοκιμα­στώ, να υποφέρω για τον Κύριο, να εργαστώ για τους αδελφούς μου, να κοπιάσω εργαζόμενος για το ευαγγέ­λιο και μετά να αναλάβω αυτό το μεγάλο φορτίο. Εάν είμαι ιερωμένος, θα κηρύττω αναγκαστικά, διότι θα είναι καθήκον μου και θα ανταμείβομαι υλικά για την εργασία μου αυτή' αλλά τότε πού θα είναι το καύχημά μου ότι υπηρετώ δωρεάν τον Κύριο; Ναι μεν, ο Κύριος διέταξε «τοίς τό ευαγγέλιον καταγγέλουσιν εκ του ευαγ­γελίου ζεiν» (Α' Κορ. 9/θ,14), αλλά το δέχτηκε αυτό ο πλήρης χριστιανικής αυταπαρνήσεως Παύλος; Όχι βεβαί­ως (Α' Κορ. θ,14-27).

Τι να του έλεγε ο Διευθυντής. Σχε­δόν τον μάλωσε. Τον θεώρησε εκκεντρικό.

Όταν έγιναν όλα αυτά γνωστά και διαδόθηκαν μεταξύ των συμμαθητών του, οι περισσότεροι ομοίως τον μά­λωναν και τον θεωρούσαν παράφρο­να. Εγώ, που γνώριζα το χαρακτήρα του ως συμπατριώτες που ήμασταν, τον θαύμασα και τον μακάρισα.

Όταν βγήκε από το Διευθυντήριο ο Φιλόθεος ήταν γαλήνιος και το πρόσωπό του άστραφτε σαν από θεία δόξα. Έτρεξα στο δωμάτιο.

- Τελείωσαν όλα, μου είπε.

- Χειροτονείσαι; τον ρώτησα.
- Όχι, αναχωρώ.

- Χωρίς το πτυχίο σου;

- Ναι. Χωρίς να γνωρίσω τον κό­σμο, να δοκιμάσω τις δυνάμεις μου και να δω αν μπορώ να αναλάβω τό­σο μεγάλο φορτίο, μπορώ να υποσχε­θώ ενώπιον θεού και ανθρώπων όσα απαιτεί η ιερωσύνη; Είμαστε νέοι, άπειροι από τον κόσμο, γιατί να ανα­γκαζόμαστε σε αυτήν την ηλικία να αναλαμβάνουμε για όλη τη ζωή μας ένα βάρος, το οποίο δεν είμαστε σίγουροι ότι θα μπορέσουμε να αντέ­ξουμε για πάντα;

Και μου ανέφερε τότε διάφορους μαθητές που για να πάρουν το πτυχίο τους χειροτονήθηκαν και μετά ...

Είχα, λοιπόν, δίκιο. Ας τον ονό­μασε ο Διευθυντής εκκεντρικό. Ας τον θεώρησαν οι συμμαθητές του πα­ράφρονα. Εγώ τον ονόμασα και πί­στεψα ότι ήταν ευσυνείδητος και αλη­θινός Χριστιανός ....

Σε όλους μας γεννάται το ερώτη­μα: Τελικά, τι έγινε ο Φιλόθεος;

Α) Προς την Ινδία

Ο Φιλόθεος Αθηναΐδης, ακολού­θησε το δρόμο της καρδιάς του. Ενώ στην αρχή βρέθηκε σε αδιέξοδο, ο Θε­ός του τα έφερε κατά την καρδίαν του. Γνώρισε τον π. Νεκτάριο, ο ο­ποίος αποσταλείς από το Πατριαρ­χείο θα πήγαινε στην Ορθόδοξη Εκ­κλησία της Καλκούτας Ινδιών και δέ­χτηκε να τον ακολουθήσει, έχοντας πάντα τον πόθο να διδάξει το ευαγγέ­λιο σε ανθρώπους που δεν το είχαν ακούσει ποτέ ξανά. Η συνέχεια όμως είναι τόσο εντυπωσιακή και θαυμα­στή, που μπορεί να χαρακτηριστεί ως και απίστευτη. Είναι όμως αλήθεια!

Β) Στο νησί των ανθρωποφάγων

Στο δρόμο λοιπόν προς την Ινδία, ταξιδεύοντας με πλοίο, και ενώ έπλε­αν στον Ινδικό Ωκεανό, τους έπιασε μεγάλη θαλασσοταραχή και το πλοίο ναυάγησε κοντά στα νησιά Τσάγος, νότια των Μαλδίβων νήσων. Από τους επιβάτες του πλοίου οι περισσό­τεροι κατάφεραν να σωθούν, καθώς κοντά υπήρχε μια συστάδα νησιών. Αλίμονο όμως! Στο νησί κατοικούσε μια φυλή ανθρωποφάγων. Έτσι οι κα­ταταλαιπωρημένοι ναυαγοί, έπεσαν στα χέρια τους και έγιναν τροφή των αγρίων. Πραγματικά φρικιαστικό να βλέπει ο Φιλόθεος τον π. Νεκτάριο, δύο άλλους αλλόδοξους Ιεραποστό­λους που είχαν γνωρίσει και τους υπόλοιπους συνταξιδιώτες του να καταβροχθίζονται ωμοί από τους ιθαγενείς. Πρόκειται για ανθρώπους που θυσιάστηκαν για το όνομα του Χριστού με τον πλέον βασανιστικό τρόπο. Τον Φιλόθεο όμως τον άφη­σαν για την άλλη ημέρα.

Όταν συνήλθε και είδε όλα τα γενόμενα, τον κατέλαβε τρόμος. Γρήγο­ρα όμως ύψωσε το βλέμμα και την καρδιά του προς το Θεό. Και όντως, ο Θεός έδωσε και πάλι θαυμαστή λύ­ση! Ενώ πλησίασαν για να τον φάνε, ξαφνικά σταμάτησαν, έσκυψαν κάτω και άρχισαν να φωνάζουν «ταμπού! ταμπού!» Τι είχε συμβεί; Μια μεγάλη ελιά στο πρόσωπο του που είχε, την είχαν εκλάβει ως ιερό σημάδι που επεδείκνυε τη θεϊκή του καταγωγή... Έπεσαν λοιπόν και τον προ­σκυνούσαν και του ζη­τούσαν να μην τους καταστρέψει. Αυτή η «τυχαία σύμπτωση» έ­γινε η αφορμή για όλη τη θαυμαστή συνέχεια.

Ο Φιλόθεος αντιμε­τωπίστηκε με φόβο ως θεϊκό πρόσωπο. Αυτός εκμεταλλεύ­τηκε αυτή τη συγκυρία και φρόντιζε συνεχώς να καλλιεργεί το φόβο και το δέος στους «υπηκόους» του, τους επιβλήθηκε και τους διοικούσε. Του έχτισαν ένα σπιτόδεντρο, απ' όπου με τη βοήθεια του «πρωθυπουργού» του (του πρώην αρχηγού τους) τους διοι­κούσε. Μετά από κάποιο διάστημα τους επιτέθηκαν οι ιθαγενείς ανθρω­ποφάγοι από το διπλανό νησί. Τότε, μπροστά στη δύσκολη αυτή περίστα­ση, χρησιμοποίησε ένα περίστροφο που είχε. Από τότε τον θεωρούσαν το θεό που είχε τον κεραυνό. Αυτό μεγά­λωσε το φόβο και το δέος που του εί­χαν.

Γ) Το εκπολιτιστικό του έργο

Ο Φιλόθεος με το φωτισμό του Θεού και με την προσευχή του άρχισε σιγά- σιγά το εκπολιτιστικό του έργο στους ανθρωποφάγους. Τους έβαλε να πλύνουν καλά όλη την περιοχή από τα αίματα, να θάψουν όσους νε­κρούς είχαν απομείνει και απαγόρευ­σε για πάντα την ανθρωποφαγία. Τους έμαθε να ψήνουν το κρέας των ζώων και να μην τρώ­νε ποτέ ωμό -πράγμα που τους ικανοποίησε πολύ-, τους χώρισε σε ομάδες και τους ανέθε­σε αρμοδιότητες. Έτσι, άλλοι κυνηγούσαν, άλ­λοι μάζευαν καρπούς, άλλοι μαγείρευαν, άλ­λοι έκαναν κατασκευα­στικά και επισκευαστικά έργα κ.τ.λ. Όλοι εργάζονταν, όφει­λαν να πλένονται και να φροντίζουν για την καθαριότητα. Με τον καιρό έμαθε τη γλώσσα τους και επινόησε αλφάβητο γι' αυτήν. Φρόντισε δε να διδάξει σε όλους γραφή, ανάγνωση και αριθμητική.

Δ) Ο εκχριστιανισμός των ανθρωποφάγων

Εκτός όμως από τις καθαρά εκπο­λιτιστικές παρεμβάσεις του, επέβαλε και κάποιες συνήθειες ηθικής χρι­στιανικής ζωής, χωρίς όμως να διδά­ξει ποτέ για το Χριστό. Έτσι απαγό­ρευσε την πολυγαμία και κοινογαμία που είχαν. Έφτιαξαν οικογένειες που η κάθε μια έμενε στο δικό της καλυ­βάκι. Επίσης μετέφρασε στη γλώσσα τους την Καινή Διαθήκη -είχε μαζί του μία-, τους έβαλε να φτιάξουν αν­τίγραφα και τη μελετούσαν ο καθένας καθημερινά. Τους είχε μαγέψει τόσο το περιεχόμενο της, που όλοι μελε­τούσαν και απήγγειλαν στίχους της Κ. Διαθήκης απ' έξω. Όταν λοιπόν ήταν έτοιμοι άρχισε να τους εξηγεί τα της πίστεως μας, ξεκινώντας από το ότι ο ίδιος δεν είναι Θεός, αλλά απεσταλ­μένος του, μέχρι και το απολυτρωτικό έργο του Ιησού Χριστού. Έγιναν όλοι τους πιστοί και μάλιστα επεδεί­κνυαν πολύ ζήλο στη μελέτη της Αγίας Γραφής και στην κατήχηση που έκανε ο Φιλόθεος. Εν τω μεταξύ είχε ναυαγήσει κι άλλο πλοίο.

Ε) Το δεύτερο ναυάγιο

Ειδικά στο έργο του εκχριστιανισμού των ανθρωποφάγων απέκτησε βοηθούς δύο νέους ναυαγούς. Είχε γί­νει πάλι άλλο ναυάγιο και οι δύσμοι­ροι είχαν πέσει στα χέρια γειτόνων ανθρωποφάγων. Ο Φιλόθεος και η φυλή του πολέμησαν και τους έσωσαν. Ήταν δύο Ευρωπαίοι ιεραπό­στολοι, ένας αγγλικανός και ένας ρω­μαιοκαθολικός. Αφού συνειδητοποί­ησαν πώς γλίτωσαν και τι έργο είχε επιτελέσει ως τότε ο Φιλόθεος, συμ­φώνησαν να τον βοηθήσουν αποδεχό­μενοι μετά από συζήτηση να ακολου­θήσουν στις βασικές του αρχές το Ορθόδοξο δόγμα, την κοινή της πρώ­της χιλιετίας πίστη. Και οι δύο, με αγνό φρόνημα και καλή διάθεση βοή­θησαν στη διδασκαλία του ευαγγελί­ου στους ιθαγενείς.

Στ) Τρίτο ναυάγιο -θαυμαστό τέλος

Με τη συμπλήρωση τριών ετών από το πρώτο ναυάγιο του Θεόφιλου, ναυάγησε πάλι ένα πλοίο από το ο­ποίο κατάφεραν να σώσουν έναν ηλι­κιωμένο και έναν νεότερο. Τελικά αυ­τοί ήταν πατέρας και γιος, ο πατέρας Επίσκοπος και ο γιος διάκονος, που πήγαιναν ως απεσταλμένοι του Οι­κουμενικού Πατριαρχείου για ιερα­ποστολή στην Ινδία. Έτσι, χάριτι Θε­ού, μπορούσε να ολοκληρωθεί το ιε­ραποστολικό έργο. Ο Επίσκοπος δεν πίστευε σε αυτά που έβλεπε, ήταν ό­μως όλα πέρα για πέρα αληθινά. Προέβη σε λεπτομερή εξέταση όλων των ιθαγενών και, αφού διαπίστωσε ότι όλοι τους ήξεραν σε βάθος την Ορθόδοξη χριστιανική διδασκαλία, τους βάπτισε και τέλεσε τους γάμους τους. Μαζί βαπτίστηκαν και οι δύο ετερόδοξοι ιεραπόστολοι, που μέσω του παραδείγματος και της ορθής θε­ολογικής κατάρτισης του Θεόφιλου, ασπάστηκαν με ζήλο και θέρμη την Ορθόδοξη πίστη. Τελέστηκε η Θεία Λειτουργία και συμμετείχαν όλοι, για δε το Θεόφιλο, που είχε τρία χρόνια να μεταλάβει, ήταν ανεπανάληπτη στιγμή. Μεγάλη όμως ήταν και η χα­ρά για το «ποίμνιο» του, τους ιθαγε­νείς για τους οποίους υπήρξε πραγ­ματικά πνευματικός πατέρας. Μάλι­στα χειροτονήθηκε ιερέας ο πρώην αρχηγός των ιθαγενών, που είχε δεί­ξει ανάλογη πρόοδο στη γνώση και στη ζωή του. Ο Επίσκοπος χειροτό­νησε επίσης τον π. Φιλόθεο. Έτσι ιδρύθηκε ουσιαστικά εκεί η πρώτη Ορθόδοξη Εκκλησία στα νησιά Τσάγος, από τον Ιεραπόστολο Φιλόθεο Αθηναΐδη.

Σε λίγες ημέρες πέρασε από εκεί κοντά ένα πλοίο. Οι πέντε πλέον λευ­κοί αναχώρησαν με προορισμό την Αυστραλία, ενώ οι ιθαγενείς έμειναν πίσω, συνεχίζοντας τη χριστιανική ζωή τους, με το δικό τους ποιμένα και με στόχο να εκχριστιανίσουν και τους κατοίκους των γειτονικών νη­σιών. Ο Θεόφιλος φρόντισε να κρα­τήσει επαφή και αργότερα τους επι­σκέφτηκε ξανά, φροντίζοντας όσο μπορούσε για την πνευματική τους πρόοδο.

Μικρό σχόλιο. Από όλη την κατα­πληκτική ιστορία του Φιλόθεου Αθη­ναΐδη μας έκανε ιδιαίτερη εντύπωση το ιεραποστολικό του φρόνημα, ο πό­θος του να υποφέρει για το Χριστό και η εμπιστοσύνη του στο έλεος και στην πρόνοια του Θεού. Ο Θεός τον έστειλε μεταξύ των ανθρωποφάγων και βίωσε τις θαυμαστές επεμβάσεις Του. Ως εκ θαύματος σώθηκε και όλους τους έκανε Ορθόδοξους Χρι­στιανούς.

Από το 200 τεύχος του περιοδι­κού μας, έτος 1968, αναδημοσιεύουμε το άρθρο «ο Ορθόδοξος Έλλην Ιερα­πόστολος Φιλόθεος», παρμένο από το βιβλίο του θεολόγου Ν. Αμβράζη.

Ιστοσελίδα της Ορθοδόξου Εξωτερικής Ιεραποστολής Θεσσαλονίκης εδώ:

Περιοδικόν "Εξωτερική Ιεραποστολή" τεύχος 207 Θεσσαλονίκη 2009


Friday, July 24, 2015

Memoirs of a Greek Taxi Driver - ( Thanasi, Today You Were Send to Me by Christ )

One morning, I received a call by the taxi call center directing me to a nearby shore. When I arrived at the address, I saw a very elderly man slowly coming towards the taxi accompanied up to the door by his daughter. When this elderly man entered inside and sat in front, he made a very good impression on me. His smile, his courteousness, his entire demeanor drew my attention. He also had an appetite for discussion during our trip since the route was quite long. We were heading to some village where his summer house was. Thus, with the appetite to talk and much time at our disposal, we discussed various social matters. In the beginning, I politely asked him about his field of work. From what this man was saying, I realized that he must have been very educated.

“I am a doctor Mr. Thanasi, but I have been retired for many years. I spent most of my life in an operating room. I also had my own clinic on such and such street; do you remember it?”

“Although I was born in 1961, I remember something about it.”

“So, as a scholar, I loved medicine very much, and I loved mankind. In my zeal and thirst for knowledge, God granted me on top of material wealth, an invention in the surgical field which made my name very well known. Patients would visit me not only from all over Greece, but also from abroad. I worked many hours and on quite a few nights, one would find me with the lancet in my hand. Sometimes, I would even sleep in the clinic because I would be too tired to return to my home. I considered it my duty to help my fellow man over and above everything else.”

“Doctor, please allow me to tell you that I am so pleased that we have met.”

“The feeling is mutual Thanasi, and I am sincere in saying this; by the way, I am also interested to find out your educational level because I have the feeling that you are not just a taxi driver.”

“I am an elementary school graduate, I replied.”

“Thanasi, I understand that you are trying to be humble, but please, tell me the truth, what did you major in?”

“I’m telling you the truth.”

“Well, I am sorry, but I don’t believe you.”

“Then, you will allow me to tell you a very true story from my childhood which is a little comical, and then I am certain that you will believe me. When I was little, the greatest nightmare for me was school and education. Just imagine, it took me eight years to finish that wretched elementary school. During the last grade, I was already shaving. I was a foot taller than the other children. So in all these eight years, I don’t remember, even once, answering my teacher correctly on the verbal quiz on the daily lesson. Every day in class, I would try to hide behind my fellow students. I didn't want my teacher to see me, so she wouldn’t call me up to the blackboard for the daily lesson drill. Every time I was called up to the blackboard, I was not only clueless of the daily lesson, but I didn’t even know what subject we were on, whether it was geography, history or religion.

In order to hide very well behind the back of the student who was in front of me, who was also hiding behind the one in front of him, I would whisper to him, “Hey, don’t move and don’t bend down." He, would then turn and tell me, “What are you saying you dunce? You want me to be punished instead?”[1] And despite my hiding attempts, my name would be called out loud and clear to walk towards the board and to demonstrate my knowledge of the daily lesson in that class. The mere announcement of my name was enough to make my legs tremble.

I will never forget during one of these times, when I was standing for quite a while at the board and I would say, “Today we will learn about our fatherland." I stopped for about five minutes, and then again, “Today we talk about our fatherland," since I didn’t know what else to say. So I turned and saw the teacher’s gaze. She was looking at me from above her glasses and gritting her teeth. In that nasty voice of hers she said, “You deafened us." I barely kept from soiling myself. The children were bursting with laughter, and the whip would fall like a storm. As you can understand, doctor, from the frequency of the daily beatings, when I heard my name, I would no longer go to the board. Instead, I would make the trip shorter by going straight to the desk to reap what was due. So what do you say, now, do you believe me?”

The doctor broke out in laughter and said, “Thanasi, you are a riot, truly awesome,” and he continued to laugh. We both laughed very much, and while we spent some time discussing much about the fruitless public educational systems, I wanted to shift the conversation a bit towards spiritual matters, before our arrival.

I had this good persisting thought working inside of me: I wonder, if this good doctor, and very dear elderly man, who must be nearing his nineties, is ready for heaven? Thus, after a brief prayer, and the use of much discretion, I shifted the conversation towards this area. By the grace of God, the doctor was very open for spiritual conversation. Furthermore, he told me, “Thanasi, I see that you are very religious.”

“The Scribes and the Pharisees were religious as well, but they remained outside the kingdom. You, doctor, are you are you in good standing with the church?” I asked.

“Yes, I don’t have a problem, although I didn’t have much time over the years for church attendance. I had, however, my own way all these years, to approach and to believe in Christ.”

“Would you mind sharing your way with me, doctor, so I can understand?”

“Let me tell you; every time I was faced with a difficult operation, I would spend some time in the room adjacent to the operating room, which I had transformed as my own personal chapel. I would kneel, pray extensively and lift my hands, to ask Christ to help me and my patient.”

Oh, my friends, when I heard the doctor speaking like this, I was overflowing with joy, especially since it is not very common to hear such words from the mouths of today’s doctors. Unfortunately this joy did not last very long because when we focused the conversation more directly to the area of repentance, confession, Holy Communion, the doctor was not on board. He became increasingly defensive and justifying himself and said, “What area of my life do I need to repent for, and why do I need to go to confession? I don’t remember having done anything evil. Thanasi, please listen so you can see where I ‘m coming from. I have my own philosophy in matters of faith, and I have held on to it throughout my life.”

I replied, “Doctor, it is not a matter of philosophy. Here we are dealing with matters of faith. There are many philosophers, but there is only one Savior.”

He came back with, “Please consider that being older than you, I may know something more.”

I added: “It is not a matter of age, either. It is about the teachings of the Gospel which calls one to sincere repentance and confession so he or she may properly prepare to often partake with reverence of the Body and the Blood of our Christ,” I replied.

“No, Thanasi, I don’t agree with repentance and confession. Furthermore, I don’t feel the need to repent for anything nor to go to confession.”

“Very well, since you don’t agree with repentance [and since you happen to be wiser than me], tonight when I go home, I will open the New Testament, and wherever I encounter the word repentance, I will draw a smudge or better yet, rip the page out, which means that I will remove over 100 pages from the New Testament. What do you say?”

“Well, now, I didn’t mean it like that!”

“Doctor, since you don’t agree with it, and I don’t agree with it, we can wipe it out with one stroke of the pen so it’s no longer there to reprove us.”

“Now just a minute Thanasi, so I can get things straight. To begin with, why must I go to a physical church? Isn’t the Church of God everywhere? Furthermore, why must I have any dealings with a priest? That’s what I could not understand all these years. Why should I go to the priest?”

“Doctor, please allow me to ask you, are you married?”

“Why, what are you saying now? I have grandchildren.”

“Great! Where did your marriage ceremony take place?”

“What, do you mean where did it take place? We went to church, where else?”

“Ohhh! So, you went to church, in front of a priest. Doctor, why the church and not the patio on the flat roof of your house? What would the church possibly have more so than your roof top patio? You could call fifty, one hundred friends, open a few bottles of wine, play some music, and have someone from your group bless the crowns. What more could the priest offer you? Everything would be just fine. So, why did you go to a church, and why did you go to a priest? I would like you to answer me. Moreover, when you baptized your children, and your grandchildren, where did you go? I will tell you, my doctor. You went to the church. But why the church? Why didn’t you stay at your home, fill your bathtub with water, and have someone dip the children three times and why not thirteen times since these things don’t have much significance? Someone could slap a little oil on them, and everything would be just fine. So, what more could the priest do for you that you couldn’t take care of yourself. Furthermore, for you to understand it better, the next time my stomach hurts, and I choose to go to a plumber, what would you think? Oh, my doctor, my doctor, for all sacraments, we go to a priest, but when it is time for repentance and confession, we are so quick to say “Why should I go to a priest?”

I am very much afraid, that many of us, due to the great egotism and pride we have, will not only be separated with houses, land, money, stocks and bonds, taxis, and clinics, but worst of all, we are in danger of being separated with Christ eternally. My dear doctor, as a man of high education, I would like you to consider eternity [without Christ]! The loss of Christ! God forbid!

My friend , in a few minutes as you enter your home, stand before your iconostasis, and ask the saints there, “My saints, did any of you reach sainthood without holy confession and shedding tears of repentance? And I'm certain the answer will come to you soon enough.” At that point, the doctor refrained from asking me any other questions. Seemingly perplexed, he lowered his head, and remained silent.

And my last words were, “My doctor, forgive me, but you forgot one thing in your life. You have been holding the surgical scalpel in your hand for so many years, and it has healed thousands of people, it has performed some miraculous healings, but it never occurred to you to turn it inside of you to make your own incision, your own personal surgery in order to excise your spiritual maladies. As you understand, I’m referring to the spiritual lancet, which hurts even more.”

Here, my friends, these words finally touched a sensitive chord in the doctor. As his tears began to flow, he tried to apologize and I said, “No, my doctor, don’t apologize because these tears are the most beautiful tears Christ has been waiting from you for ninety years now.” “My dear Lord, how could I possibly describe the indescribable? He cried and sobbed like a child and in this spiritual wailing, he turned and said to me, “My dear Thanasi, Christ sent you my way today!”

My God! My God! What beautiful words! What a beautiful outcome! What beautiful moments. These special blessings will stay with me for the rest of my life! In the last couple of miles our relationship became completely different. He asked me to come by two days later to take him to a good spiritual father if I happen to know of one.

I said, “My doctor, I have a wonderful spiritual father for you, full of meekness and love. By the way, have you ever been to confession?

“I have never confessed, my dear Thanasi, ever.”

“Nor have you communed?”

“Not even once.”

Oh, my dear Lord, a ninety year old man who never communed even once after his infant baptism.

When I left, I immediately called Father Thomas, because Father Triantafyllos was not available. I gave him a brief account of the events, and precisely what transpired with our dear doctor, and Father Thomas asked me, “Are you speaking about the world-renown doctor who had the clinic on such and such street?”

“Yes, father, do you know him?”

“What are you saying, Thanasi? All of Greece and Europe knows him. Please bring him; just call me a few minutes before you come.”

“It will be my pleasure,” I said and I was flying with untold joy. Sure enough, I drove with my private car to the doctor’s house to pick him up, and we had a soul-benefitting conversation on the way concerning confession. I wanted to prepare him so that he understood that repentance needs to precede confession. Among other things, I said, “Confession, my doctor is not merely a pronouncement of a list of sins; it must be accompanied with pain of soul, and compunction, it is an acknowledgment of our sinfulness, just like the prodigal son’s.”

The doctor was accepting and understanding everything I was telling him, without any objection. Thus we finally ascended the stairs of the church, and we arrived at the confessional to find many people waiting and most of them young students. Of course, they immediately requested that we go ahead of them, understanding that an elderly man could not remain standing for a long time. Father received the doctor with much joy and love. While my elderly friend was in the confessional, I was praying through the inner depths of my soul. I was asking our sweetest Jesus to enlighten and soften this heart, regardless of my sinfulness. The devil had trapped his heart in the passion of self justification for 90 years, and I prayed and wished for both of us to be together again, not just here on earth, but in heaven for all eternity.

In a few minutes, the door opened and I apprehensively went to receive our elderly doctor. Father Thomas smiled and told me, “Everything is fine, Thanasi. Everything is fine. He may commune whenever he wants.” “Glory to Thee our Lord, glory to Thee." My joy was complete. I thanked the student who had given us his turn telling him, “May the Panaghia reward you for your kindness!” His eyes glowed with emotion. As we were exiting the church, the doctor was very happy and told me, “My dear Thanasi, you don’t know what the father told me.”

“What did he tell you?”

“To begin with, when I entered, he immediately recognized me. He knew me from the days I ran the clinic. As soon as I entered, he told me, “Come, my doctor, come, because we are colleagues.”

“Really, my father, are you a doctor as well, I asked?”

“Yes, I am a doctor of the soul, as a priest of the Most High, and you are a doctor of the body.

This helped us to connect, and from there we progressed into confession and the prayer of absolution.”

“Didn’t I tell you that father is wonderful? He is full of meekness and love.”

We continued our joyous discussion in the car, and in a few minutes we arrived outside his home. I offered to give him a ride to Church so we could take Holy Communion together next Sunday morning, but out of courteousness and humility, he didn’t accept my offer. As we bade each other farewell with much joy, the elderly gentleman, deeply touched by the day’s events, reiterated, “My dear Thanasi, I know and fully understand that Christ sent you on my path. From here on, I know the way.”

I escorted him to the door of his house, and after we exchanged a warm handshake, I wished him “the joy and eternity of paradise." Even though I knew where his house was, I never saw the doctor again. I had the sense that my mission had come to an end. Now that I’m sitting and narrating this event, years later, I would like to say to him the same thing over again, “Doctor, may you abide in the joy and blessings of paradise, and please remember us in your prayers.”

[1] Corporal punishment was the rule in those decades.